Theatre | Nose It All


Lisa Lavelle speaks to the artistic director of the Performance Corporation, Jo Mangan about their dynamic productions and their recent play Nose.

Jo Mangan, as artistic director with Dublin’s experimental theatre company, the Performance Corporation, has taken on some odd projects in her time.

In recent years, the Performance Corporation has gained a reputation as a company that takes theatre out of the theatres. Mangan believes that the environment of a standard theatre creates distance between the audience and the action.

She tells me in this environment the audience “lose a hell of a lot of the sweat and tears that come off the stage from the actors.”

This up-close-and-personal approach to performance has led to the company staging their plays in some odd locations. These locations range from a sand dune amphitheatre in county Mayo to the inside of a moving car.

Their latest project, The Nose, is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story of the same title. The company’s associated writer, Tom Swift adapted the story and Jo Mangan is directing.

This performance is taking place in relatively conventional theatre space, Mangan concedes, but she emphasises the actors will not be confining themselves to one stage. She does not want the audience to lose “proximity” to the performance. However, the bizarre plot more than makes up for the conventional location.

The Nose is a story about a civil servant who wakes up one morning to find that his nose has left his face and is gallivanting about town, getting above its station and generally upstaging its owner.

This is, Mangan admits a “fairly unusual premise” for a play. For the Performance Corporation, a primary exponent of physical theatre in Dublin, this play most likely presented staging difficulties.

The company have played up the surreal, dreamlike nature of the story in their adaptation to avoid tackling the presentation of a personified nose. “We decided it would veer into pantomime if we actually stuck someone in a nose suit and had them running around the stage,” Mangan explains.

The lead character in the play is a greedy, corrupt governmental official. The detachment of the protagonist’s nose has been said to be a metaphor for his own out of control greed.

The nose itself becomes a civil servant and eventually, outranks him. It even interferes with his love life. His own self-interest and greed takes over his life. As Mangan says, the character “represents people who are on the climb… clambering over whoever they need to attain what they want.”

Money, in the midst of all this fear of recession is obviously a hot topic right now. Not to mention that in Ireland at the minute people are a little dissatisfied with civil servants and politicians.

Mangan agrees that their writer has “obliquely… not ramming it down our throats”- made connections to modern Ireland.

However, the surreal nature of the play, combined with the reputation of the engaging Performance Corporation, means that we can take or leave these social subtexts.

Mangan says the aim of the Performance Corporation is to “inspire and entertain” its audience. Whatever else we can expect from The Nose it seems to promise to fulfil this aim.