Creators: Guerilla Aerial
Reviewer: Tricia O’Beirne
How to describe Guerilla Aerial? Well, in their own words they are “a mysterious, nomadic tribe of gender-bending, half-deranged actors, acrobats, dancers, musicians and storytellers”. There is something exciting and unnerving about interacting with these creatures, especially when they approach unexpectedly as you queue outside the venue. A spider-like creature unceremoniously scuttles through the crowd, followed by a white-garbed woman with a preternaturally white face and madly bushy hair; they climb a nearby fire escape and while Spider plays blue-grass on her/his violin, accompanied by an accordion player below, the woman’s hair performs a kind of a dance. Yes, it is all as strange as it sounds. Inside the barn we are met by a shaven-headed bondage man, swinging from ropes, holding onto a dog-collared Spider; they moan and sigh as we pass. As we are guided around a corner the extent of the space is revealed: a high-raftered roof with skylights and suspended ropes and beneath a vast floor filled with artfully arranged junk; think jumble sale meets haberdashery meets Victoriana.
Our storyteller gives a brief history of Alice Milligan (poet, playwright, activist and much more) and her background (posh), and mentions her forgotten status: “This is not a retrospective. It’s not even a f****** introduction”. Milligan herself is represented by a very competent opera singer but this show is not really about Alice M, it is all about the visuals. As we enter Alice’s space a queen-of-hearts type figure bursts through a cupboard and runs frantically away screaming “the Fenians are coming, the Fenians are coming” and the table begins to shake, rattling the bone china bowls filled with what looks like liver laid on top. Monkey-like creatures use ropes and curtains to perform impressive aerial acrobatics. There is more opera and then more of Bondage Boy and Spider climbing ropes, some wall projections of mushrooms and jellyfish set to rave music and finally Alice must be laid to rest. Everyone troupes past her open coffin where she lies – not forgotten – and we are played out of the performance by the same bluegrass sounds which began our odyssey.
Guerilla Aerial’s performance is every bit as bizarre as it sounds but in a good way. While parts of the performance feel too loose or don’t quite flow, the visual elements are fantastic. This may not be “even an introduction” to Alice M but it certainly makes a great tribute to her, somehow.
Runs until 7 May 2016 | Image: courtesy of Galway Theatre Festival