Dublin Fringe Festival 2019: Fetch
In “Fetch,” written by Lauren-Shannon Jones and directed by Samantha Cade, a final flight on a doomed aircraft plays with metaphorical, eschatological, and theatrical possibilities. Eavesdropping in on the end of days, or the end of this day at least, nothing is ever quite what it seems. A ships container becomes an aircraft as installation intersects with performance. Meanwhile earphones convey information in the absence of performing bodies. Yet perhaps, in the end, it's what’s not seen that's really doing most of the work.
“Fetch’s” building blocks are deceptively simple. A series of aircraft chairs placed inside a ships container suggests, rather than replicates, the experience of sitting on a plane. Fenna Von Hirschheydt’s sinister lighting design might subtly reference the experience, but, like Jones and Cade, she’s somewhere else she’s taking you. As does Leon Henry’s hard working sound design which conveys everything through headphones. Sat in the middle seat in the dark, a hyperrealist monotony sets in as the plane takes off, replete with crying kids, snarky air hostesses, and the two people, one sat either side of you, who insist on talking. About dead fathers and decaying teeth, fears of flying and of flying too much. It’s all intimately real. But in the world of “Fetch” realism often proves unreal. What’s hidden in the dark is where the real power lies.
Momentarily claustrophobic, initially feeling like being placed inside a sensory deprivation unit, “Fetch” suggests an experience very much about to take place in the body. But the body, it turns out, is not what it’s really working on. A series of guided meditation exercises teach you to control your anxiety. Or how to escape into a kind of blue skies, La La Land that refuses to recognise the real horrors surrounding us before becoming a horror itself. Like any guided exercise, it soon risks you dropping off or zoning out. As do the opinionated conversations talking data collection, sustainability, and deja vu. Yet you soon come to suspect that this semi-sleeping state might be intentional as the experience shifts between the hyperreal and the dreamlike, between that which can be imagined for being heard, and that place beyond imagination where darker things flourish on the periphery. Like a Fetch. An apparition or double of a living person, believed to be a warning of that person's impending death.
If the notion of the Fetch seems weakly developed, like the container, it’s there to provide an imaginative and metaphorical frame. As with Lauren-Shannon Jones’ previous work, there’s a dark demented quality that brings everything together. Under Cade’s superbly paced direction, “Fetch” drips with primordial darkness, with anxieties always hovering on the fringes of vision. Something Cade proves keenly sensitive to, knowing that the real power of “Fetch” is not in what’s there, but in what’s not seen yet presses against the edges. Even so, as intimate, immersive experiences go, “Fetch” proves decidedly passive. As a body sat listening while nothing happens around you, and nothing happens to you, or because of you, you become less immersed and more an eavesdropping observer. In the immediacy of the theatrical moment you listen, flitting in and out of an experience confined to the head. One which soon undermines the visceral in favour of the cerebral, making the whole experience decidedly less disturbing.
Throughout “Fetch” Jones, a vocal advocate for mental health, marries personal anxieties with existential dread, doubling its power to unsettle. You can argue the coin toss over the end of the world, the existence of ghosts, or whatever arguments the hyperrealist “Fetch” pours into your ear. But be careful you’re not avoiding its deeper darks. The danger of being a ghost still living who doesn’t know it’s dead yet. Or is dying. Trapped in a liminal space you can’t fight or fly from.
”Fetch” by Lauren-Shannon Jones and Samantha Cade, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 at The Lir Academy.