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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Theatre Festival 2023: Zona Franca

Zona Franca. Image by Renato Mangolin


If misery loves company, the feeling isn't always reciprocated. Take Zona Franca, a dance spectacle by Alice Ripoll and Tia Suave. Which takes misery, dresses it in hot pants, teaches it to twerk and twirl and showers it in balloon bursts of glitter. Telling it get out of its mind and into its body to enjoy life’s immediacy, potency and vitality. We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time, so don't let the bad times win by wallowing in misery. Dance is joy, and joy is resistance. Gloriously uplifting and exceptionally executed, Zona Franca takes you on a wild ride down a Brazilian rabbit hole. A production unafraid to put its foot in its mouth. Or its fists. Its elbows. Its knees. Or anyone else’s for that matter.

Initially it's a small affair. Pressed into the corner like extras in a Brazilian tourist commercial, a youth culture of dance, rhythm and shared joy begins to darken as the show begins. Somehow, without noticing when, you slip into a choreographic wonderland of joy and nightmares where nonsense makes the only sense. The body, married to howls and cackles, feels currents of violence shuddering through only to be reformed as joy and connectedness. Till joy gradually consumes every inch of the stage, even as the phone camera make us voyeurs of fetish.

Zona Franca. Image by Renato Mangolin

Throughout, competing and contrasting images fight for attention, the eye flitting from one to another, never really able to alight. The sum proving greater than its individually impressive parts. Occasionally one dominates as dancers execute nimble or contorted routines, including other bodies being carried, connected to, or stood upon. From twerking to TikTok, football to the fabulous, signature solos and striking group pieces mesh into divine madness. If some overstay their welcome, others leave you wanting more. A segment in which a performer, back to the audience, positioned in box splits on a table is wheeled across stage performing synchronised butt twitching received an outburst of spontaneous applause. The only one of the night.

Like The Dan Daw Show, Zona Franca offers joy as resistance. A resistance so infectious it left many in the audience wishing they could join in the dance. Vital in a world where self-righteous nastiness often passes as protest, acid viciousness as activism, and hatred as humility. Zona Franca has no truck with that, we're all together in this so let's enjoy it. Silly, sexy, and seriously good fun, Zona Franca tells a thousand tales. The body its voice. Its message one of joy.

Zona Franca, by Alice Ripoll and Tia Suave, runs at The O’Reilly Theatre until Sept 30 as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2023.

For more information visit Dublin Theatre Festival 2023


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