Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: Mosaic
Mosaic by Louis Deslis. Image Adrien Simonazzi
Why is there a preponderance of one person plays? Most of which amount to quirky, funny confessionals about some lost soul coming into the self-aware light, likely featuring a song or two. Throw in a half baked, full baked, or over baked political sentiment and Bob’s your uncle (or your aunt should they so identify). The results not so much well made plays as ready made plays. The recurring format evoking Tynan’s concern for audiences always being fed the same play just in marginally different versions. Is it on account of funding? Cost effectiveness? Everyone taking the same creative writing course? True, some like Tom Moran Is A Big Fat Filthy Disgusting Liar are deserved successes of the genre. But with so many jumping onto similar bandwagons, it gives pause for thought. If you can only judge work on the theatrical terms they set out for themselves, you have wonder why they’re all setting out the same terms? One size never fits all.
Take Louis Deslis’s Mosaic, which follows the formula faithfully to serve up a dull yet charming tale moderately well told. Similar to his delightful Patchwork from 2019, Deslis again jumps down the one person, autobiographical rabbit hole to re-cover many of the same themes: the tension in language and translation, being French but living in Ireland, the strains of being in love. Yet where Patchwork showed heart and humour, Mosaic presents a self regarding, self pitying monologuer who fails to notice that, narratively, nothing much is happening aside from the sound of his own voice. The heartbroken, Celine Dion loving Deslis taking a trip to stay with his injured grandmother for a week in Burgundy. The trip punctured by brief encounters with caricatures he meets along the way. Tack on an easy ending that doesn’t arise from a plot or action, yet tries to tuck everything neatly away, and the deja vu sense of been here, seen that before, have several similar t-shirts quickly proves overpowering.
Throughout, characters, language, observations and insights amount to an anti story of a guy whose peroxide hair might be easy on the eyes, but his erratic outbursts are often hard on the ears. Including screaming in French and throwing out political tropes about the beige bourgeoise fuelled by his own privileged projections. Luckily director Lee Coffey understands that what keeps the audience invested is Deslis himself, who has an easy manner and presence. Coffey knowing when to rein things in, keep them tight, and when to let pace flow to realise those moments when Deslis’s script shines. Elevating this mild self-indulgence into something watchable, if not quite memorable, by resisting easy exaggeration. Granny and her infuriating habits proving utterly brilliant, holding Deslis’s less stellar moments to account.
With Mosaic, Deslis appears to have lost his way a little while resting on Patchwork’s impressive laurels. Or else caught in the trap of the one person format. One which can only ever take you so far before circling you back onto yourself, trapping you in a merry-go-round of same again please. Needing to look closer and dig deeper, Mosaic suggests someone dropped into a world of cartoon characters with too little of substance being said and less of substance happening. Deslis proves something of a charmer, but Coffey and Deslis deserve a better script. One worthy of their respective talents.
Mosaic by Louis Deslis, directed by Lee Coffey, runs at Project Arts Centre until Sept 16.