Immediate and Scrambled Thoughts on “infinity” (2018)

Photo: Ste Murray; from http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/i-n-f-i-n-i-t-y

The following contains, uh, “spoilers”, of a sort for infinity (Matthews/Cerrick, 2018) at the Dublin Fringe Festival, though is more that my rambles refer so often to the play that I don’t think it’d make much sense without having seen it! So I’d heartily recommend you do that when/if you can: http://www.fringefest.com/festival/whats-on/i-n-f-i-n-i-t-y

Infinity is a loop; infinity (2018) is a loop. No concrete beginning nor end… with that in mind, I’ll start not in terms of the plot, but with a binary that I noticed (one of many in the play) immediately present on stage/in the performing space: a black suit (stage right) and a white suit (opposite). The latter is worn for the second half of the show, and is chunky, like the astronaut suit, the kind that evokes the naive idealism of the Space Race circa-1960s. Black-suit, meanwhile, is flatter, more pragmatic design, the kind that would actually be used for a near-future mission to Mars.

I have several thoughts as to what the play “actually” (er, *cough*) “is” ”about”. Is it, like its namesake, a narrative cycle? Black-suit seeks transmission, falls in, shifts (imperceptibly) to white-suit, gives out transmission, transmission found by black-suit, black-suit seeks transmission… Or maybe the chalk circle is one half of the lemniscate, a mere circle of It, the other side undrawable because its hypothetical location is where we the audience are sitting… or is the play itself the parting moment, breaking the loop (of what, Epi, what does it break? Everyday life, worldly monotony, the binds of anxiety and mental illness…), starting with direct address, then an intermission of fiction, and then the return to earnest messaging, thereby adhering to thoughts of liberation: hope-in-empathy.

When white-suit is left alone in the wormhole (the chalk circle, an ominous theatrical zero), immaterial (just the performer and the empty space), family voices dance and play chorus from the dark (both: the one in the space, and the one above our heads and seats; the mixing board, the behind-the-scenes). Then the suit explodes into colour. Ecstatic, bangled and rainbowed — neither black nor white nor a tendency between (the sort-of foil undersuit beneath the chunky white is a light grey, which would signify something, I suppose, under that kind of thinking I just outlined above, but can’t articulate right now, so, uh, oops) but something different — lateral movement, outwith the A-to-B of black-suit’s narrative, a diagonal understanding. “I don’t know what happened to the astronaut”, Nessa says.

Back to black-suit, though. It “represents” (insert a hearty amount of scare-quotes there, thank you very much) a furtive duty, in regards to human endeavour/survival; logistics, you know. In contrast to said “naïve idealism” of the white suit. As black-suit, Nessa sits in a black polygon, the spaceship. Material: both in prop and in its clearly defined genre, of science-fiction. Think Interstellar (2013) but without Nolan’s capital-c Conservative tendencies(?!).

We’re told several times the world is dying. How much of that is genre convention, these days? There’s a casual joke early in the performance where Nessa looks at her phone, to avoid human contact, and reads Twitter to find that apocalypse digitally staring back at her. But it’s not some Cold War-era-esque despair we get at the end (though black-suit’s narrative veers towards it) like you would find in most vintage sci-fi films. That’s not our resolve, this time — rather, we get ambiguity. A radical sort which allows for hope because (and I paraphrase instances of the play, here (more so than the rest of the ramble)) in the unknown there is an infinity of solutions, infinite potential for, well, anything (duh), something concrete.

Which infinity isn’t, really, and that’s to its massive benefit and success. It strobes between the de- and re-construction of theatre tropes in an effort to break the fourth wall — no, really, to properly get there, performer in syncopation with audience. And I think the play succeeded in that — I’m new to Dublin, been here for less than a month, and urban loneliness has hit me hard. While walking out after the play, hoping to say a few words to the performer, I saw her off by the door, further than expected. I made eye contact. All I managed was an awkward wave. Kicking myself for being so awkward, as one would, I got to the door, and stopped, and thought — turn back — feeling fake, having to lurch the earnestness out of myself, but persisting, anyway, taking the leap (“into the unknown…”), back. Because theatre is, I would say, a prolonged moment, artificial but for the seizing, so why not when the space has been breached and made that intense, etcetera. I return to her; I apologise for the mere awkward wave; I say my piece. She thanks me, and we feel the moment. She reaches a bit as I say goodbye, mid-step away — a push and pull and recede, the essence of [ ] — and I’m haunted by the meaning of that, the lack of an act, the significance clinging to me all the way home (good). An exuberance it’s been hard to feel since the start of September.

On the way back I see etched on a bench, Enjoy your life. I thought to make it real. Tram over bridge, two emerald eyes stare out of the water, green light reflected on the waves, back to me, that sort of thing. A question continually spills out from the play and into my thoughts: When are we meant to open our eyes? I well with emotion and feel the loop.

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