Sometimes a good performance doesn't fulfill the purpose of normal theatre. It doesn't raise pertinent political questions. It doesn't strive for laughter or for tears. Instead, it explores seas of uncharted human experience, feelings there aren't yet names for, existences that cannot be described. Award-winning international company The Flanagan Collective have created such a show in
Speaks directly to the experience of any young person living alone: Netflix, huge TV’s and alcohol
The piece skillfully weaves together the narratives of two women: one in her late 20’s, struggling with a breakup and learning to live alone, and the other an ancient loner, clutching a pot of tea in a closing dance hall, recounting scenes from her long life. Multi-talented pair Holly Beasley-Garrigan and Veronica Hare play these respective characters, as well as narrators. They achieve a captivating and intimate setting, playing out each story as if to each individual audience member. Scenes of physical theatre and song maintain an air of wonder, as though we're witnessing the retelling of a legend.
The special quality of Snakes and Giants is in the way that it combines its narratives not through intersecting plot, but through theme. There are great differences between the characters - the ancient woman’s scenes have a mythic quality, with talk of giants and elders, while the younger character speaks directly to the experience of any young person living alone: Netflix, huge TV’s and alcohol.
These contrasts allow the performance to explore loneliness, memory and history from many different angles. The elder knows where she is from but has realised that her world has disappeared; the younger feels as though her life lacks purpose, unsure of where she is from and her place in the world. She talks about how she feels each generation somehow loses the capacity to be as happy as the last.
What is our connection with the weight of history? What is it to belong, and what is home? Those that came before us can sometimes feel like giants, people with a purpose and meaning to their lives that we cannot possibly attain. Yet as the world changes around us constantly, we can only enjoy it, move with it, accept it.
Snakes and Giants contains all of these ideas alongside many others. To try and pin all of them down on the page would be foolish. The vagueness and great scope of the piece may leave some with a feeling of dissatisfaction that there isn't a more tangible message to grasp, but sometimes you have to let a performance wash over you. The images we are left with are a stage picture, built and then destroyed, glasses of wine and cups of tea, long thin shadows of giants cast against the wall, leave each of us with thoughts and feelings that defy easy wording or description. Sometimes live performance gives you something nothing else can.