Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Transmission
Transmission. Image by Jason Byrne.
Time Flows Still
Time. Tech. Memory. And fifteen minutes of fame. Which, when measured as a percentage of the average life span amounts to approximately zero percent of a life. So what should become obsolete and what's worth keeping? Is memory like a videotape being constantly recorded over? In Caitríona Ní Mhurchú's meandering Transmission, the former, bi-lingual, RTE Continuity Presenter weaves three distinct strands into one untidy thread, reflecting on her fifteen minutes, her grandfather the lighthouse keeper, and the past, present, and future, otherwise known as time.
Surrounded by an underused screen, a cluttered table, and a robot vacuum called Mother, Ní Mhurchú flaunts her once upon a time B-list status with all the panache of an A-list celebrity. And why wouldn't she, Janet Jackson once gave her cosmetic tips in case she should ever decide to come to LA. Playfully unperturbed if people don't remember her now, Ní Mhurchú executes costume changes, tosses memories in the bin and regales with insider gossip with such captivating humour you're unlikely to forget her afterwards. Her story, like Ní Mhurchú herself, is utterly engaging. If only she hadn't so many other things she wanted to talk about.
Like Tenet, only better, Ní Mhurchú frequently steers off into lightweight meditations on all things time. What it is. How it works. How it moves slower and faster depending where you are. Dovetailing untidily into a tale about her grandfather, a lighthouse keeper and possibly the last man to see the Titanic before she sank, it all begins to feel unfocussed and flimsy. If the three strands tentatively hold together, they never collectively crackle. As time and memory collide, physics soon begins to border on metaphysics until the moral finally arrives wrapped in a predictably hope-filled finale.
Even so, Transmission can be utterly captivating. Or rather Ní Mhurchú can, her biographical selections stealing the show, even if you feel sold short left wanting to know what happened after. From using the C word on TV to recounting bopping to Bananarama in a boiler suit, Ní Mhurchú is always funny and endearing. Even if the song she's dancing to, Magic Fly by Space, was released two years before Bananarama had actually formed. A subtextual reinforcing of the vagaries of memory no doubt, but this lack of rigour, like the questionable claims about the first SOS transmission, can leave things feeling unclear and unfocused and undermines confidence in Ní Mhurchú's scientific claims.
Like the perfect stranger to be sat beside at a dinner party, Ní Mhurchú makes for perfect company. She might ramble off on curious tangents, but her charm, humour and self-deprecating honesty see you forgiving Transmission much. Indeed, even if you're not blown away by it all, the red headed cailin will still lure you in simply by raising her eyebrow.
Transmission, by Little Wolf/Caitríona Ní Mhurchú runs at The Peacock Stage of The Abbey Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition, until September 12.