October 06, 2008
Good write up of Caligula which is on in The Project for the Dublin Theatre Festival in today's Guardian.
As Daughter Deirdre did the set design I declare an interest.
Monday October 6 2008
"You're being absurd," Emperor Caligula is told, and how could he not be? In Albert Camus' 1930s play, the notorious Roman ruler becomes a mouthpiece for the philosophy of the absurd, demonstrating the meaninglessness of life by embarking on a reign of terror. With relentless logic, he pursues his idea of freedom by tyrannising others, "converting philosophy into corpses".
David Greig's witty translation brings contemporary irony to a play that offers an original perspective on ancient history, while anticipating the extremes of 20th-century dictatorships. Both aspects are evoked in Conor Hanratty's strikingly austere production. Tilly Grimes' costumes have a formality that dispels any toga-and-sandals cliches.
The shining black surfaces of Deirdre Dwyer's abstract set suggest a series of mirrors, framing the pool in which Caligula gazes, unable to see beyond his own reflected image. Will O'Connell convincingly swings from cold rationality to manic spleen. With a dangerous facility for the language of propaganda and spin, he adopts the guise of madness when it suits him.
"We can always find another emperor," one member of his retinue says coolly, but it takes a long time for the conspirators to summon up the courage to get rid of Caligula - they are poets and thinkers, who retain some sympathy with the emperor's ideas. Caligula's assassination is inevitable from the start, yet it seems as if Camus is more interested in elaborating philosophical arguments about freedom and responsibility than in dramatic momentum, and some of the characters are sketchy and emblematic.
Nevertheless, every ounce of theatricality is exploited here. The CHRG company emerged last year from a mentoring programme run by the Rough Magic theatre company, and has established its own style of nihilist chic.