Review: Visiting Necropolis at UCD DramSoc Theatre

Visiting Necropolis is a production squarely in the realm of epic theatre. Based sixty years in the future, it explores the interaction between M (Hayley Dawson) and Kim (Tadhg Carey) as they look into the recent past of humanity, more specifically the climate catastrophe that occurs in the early twenty first century. By examining the stories of those past, they come to understand the conditions through which a catastrophe such as the one alluded to could be allowed to happen.

As the crowd enters the theatre, they are each given a mask (a simple piece of cloth with holes to see through) and instructed to wear them. They are then led to their seats, or lack thereof. It quickly becomes clear when the crowd is positioned in a semi-circle surrounding the stage, that the audience will be a player in this production. The set is occupied by two tree-like structures, littered with pieces of paper and plastic bags in the branches. Three bodies lie still on stage as the crowd enters. Above, three hexagon shaped screens project images of climate disaster. This is the scene that is set for the audience before a line of dialogue is even uttered, and immediately the audience knew that this was not going to be a piece of Ibsenite realist theatre, but something rather different. The set design and construction of the theatrical space must be commended at this point. It did an excellent job of immersing the audience in the atmosphere of the piece, while never allowing them to slip into escapism. The audience became part of the production, making them complicit with what happens on stage, and helping to deliver the message of the play.

“The audience acts almost like the ghosts of themselves in the future, the victims of the issues that come to bear”

There is no doubt that this is a production with an agenda. The action, set design, and overall production of the piece is aimed squarely at calling the audience's attention to the contemporary climate change catastrophe that we are currently experiencing. Not only that, the production manages to make the audience feel as though they are already living it. The audience acts almost like the ghosts of themselves in the future, the victims of the issues that come to bear. Director Ingmar Kviele effectively employs the conventions of Brechtian epic theatre in order to call attention to the issues portrayed on stage without allowing the audience to distance themselves through the suspension of disbelief. One of the most powerful moments of the piece is when M and Kim approach the audience and look at them, going from person to person in the semi-circle. There is no way that an audience member could get caught up in the world of the play and forget the message of the piece. The audience is invited into the production, both physically and intellectually, in order to feel not only the magnitude of the words spoken and the stories being told but the implications these have on their own lives. To this end, the direction of the piece cannot be faulted; Kviele proves to have a steady hand and is not afraid to take risks, and it pays off in the finished production.

“The personal relationship between the two characters is explored so thinly that one wonders if it was really necessary at all”

Attention must also be drawn to the physical performances displayed in the piece. There are a number of scenes impressionistically portrayed through the movement of bodies and dance; Joseph Cange is a particular stand out in these terms. His physical control is mesmerising to behold and powerfully portrays what may well be lost in a weaker performer. The choreography seamlessly transitions from the semi-realist action between M and Kim to the impressionistic physical performances of a number of the stories told. However, the dialogue between M and Kim is often overbearing and overdramatic, and the personal relationship between the two characters is explored so thinly that one wonders if it was really necessary at all. It felt as though a lot of the action and dialogue between the two was simply forced into the piece in order to produce a more traditional dramatic situation for the audience to recognise and understand. This was not needed. The production was strong enough to carry on without this and perhaps had the writer had a bit more confidence in the piece and omitted or altered these scenes the production as a whole may have been a truly great one.Overall, this is a confident and effective piece of theatre making. The production design, direction, choreography, and mode of the piece were outstanding in many cases. However, the script and story unfortunately detracted from the overall effect of the show. That being said, Visiting Necropolis is a show that leaves audiences thinking, and in doing that one may very well call it a success.