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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Twenty Fifty

Fionnuala Gygax in Twenty Fifty. Image by Pastricio Cassinoni

Telling Lies That Tell The Truth

Arguably one of the more disappointing trends resulting from theatre closures was the often unimaginative reliance on Zoom and Skype calls as vehicles for online performance. In no time at all many began to look like dressed up versions of The Brady Bunch. Not that the approach was without merit. Caitriona McLaughlin, impressively directing Darren Murphy’s The Gifts You Gave to the Dark as part of The Irish Rep's online season, featuring Marty Rea, Seán McGinley and Maria Mullen follows a journey into the afterlife in a soul searing production not to be viewed without several boxes of tissues.

Some have pushed hard at Zoom's theatrical possibilities. Few faring better than Fionnuala Gygax and Dan Colley whose cleverly subversive Twenty Fifty takes Zoom in an entirely fresh direction. Running till September 19 as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition, Twenty Fifty sees Gygax interviewing one well known artist per performance in front of a live, Zoom audience. Looking to recreate the experience of live theatre, there's even a gentle element of audience participation for those that way inclined. Which you're quite likely to be by the end. For as events proceed, little turns out to be quite as you'd expect. Yet that's the point of Twenty Fifty. It wants to challenge our often unsafe assumptions, especially those concerning ourselves and our unstable futures.

Monday evening saw a somewhat guarded Tom Gilmore carefully weighing his answers in response to Gygax's loaded, probing, and often rapid fire questions, many of which were improvised. Like a naive talk show host with their own agenda, Gygax gently extracts information, which Gilmore surrenders in short, sometimes single syllabled sentences. At times resembling an online counselling workshop, a sudden turn midway reveals it's really not about the particular artist, even though it is. Did you know in 2050, if the temperature rises by even three degrees, 79 million people will be displaced? Did you know that the safe future you're imagining is quite likely never going to happen? If you should never regret getting old for it being a privilege denied to many, did you know it may be a privilege denied to us all?

Interweaving details on climate change with Gilmore's likes, dislikes, views and feelings, Gygax and Colley are smart enough not to lecture directly for too long. Even so, there comes a time when it seems like it's rambling towards an apocalyptic dead end, before Gygax flips it on its head. In one deft moment Gilmore's answers are brought vividly to life, his story becomes our story and the world, like theatre, is something we all share together. Gygax might tell lies to tell the truth but, along with Colley, she does it with such conviction and cleverness it draws you in. All so passionately executed even the occasional online glitch seems barely noticeable. Twenty Fifty might not make you a convert to Zoom, but it might encourage another look for being one of the closest, smartest, most innovative approximations of live theatre online. Not harmed in the least by Gygax's infectious love for theatre.

Twenty Fifty, by Dan Colley, Fionnuala Gygax, and guests, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition wherever you can take a Zoom call until September 9.

Link to Darren Murphy’s The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, directed by Caitriona McLaughlin, which is available online till October 31.


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