Anecdotal Evidence – Smock Alley, Dublin
Writer: Grainne Curistan
Director: Noel Cahill
It’s funny from where you’re standing.
Anecdotal Evidence premiered at Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival 2017 in the theatre’s main space. It is without a doubt one of the most strange, interesting and powerful uses of theatre and satire that one is likely to see in the near future.
The play begins with distorted circus music. It feels uncomfortable and unavoidable. A table is placed near the back of the stage; decorated with large multi coloured lightbulbs and covered in blank paper. A man wearing a white toga, orange fright wig and clown makeup (face painted white, red mouth turned down at the sides and black make up around the eyes) takes up the position of a judge overlooking a court room. This is not an ordinary court room though. The ‘lawyers’, dressed all in black, are also made up to look like clowns, as is another cast member who facilitates the proceedings. Evidence is pulled out of storage boxes and important issues are reduced to being scribbled down on paper. A woman is bought onto the stage covered in a white sheet before she is unveiled like a prize. We learn that her name is Miss Reed and she acts almost as if a prop in proceedings. Even when the defendant is bought in, smartly dressed and able to defend himself verbally she remains mute. Her mouth has been covered and her body is dressed and manipulated as she stands there in silence.
It is important to note that Anecdotal Evidence is funny; its humour a little twisted, like a knife. The last few scenes are troubling and dark. They reach out and tell the audience to focus. Without giving away the narrative these last moments are perhaps the most frightening because this is where absurdity and parody fade into reality. The story is powerful and truthful. At the end it is impossible to look away and the strength of this makes one stop and breathe at the end. There is a moment of silence before the applause begins. This is innovative and entertaining theatre but it is also powerful political and social commentary that will linger on in the minds of all who see it.