Palimpsest – The Depot at The Complex, Dublin

Reviewer: Louise Tallon

Creator/Director/Choreographer: David Bolger

Producers: Sarah Latty and Bridget Webster

The warehouse space of The Depot at The Complex is the perfect venue for CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s stunning production Palimpsest. No other word could better describe this highly original work where art form is layered upon art form to examine and convey how the effects of major events in Ireland’s past may have lingered, informing and shaping our country’s present.

In a creative explosion of dance, music, song, poetry, spoken word, comedy, projection – the ensemble cast of individually talented dancers, musicians and actors deliver a visual, sensory and auditory extravaganza supported and enabled by a marvellously accomplished production team.

Separately and together, the dancers replay notable chapters in Irish history. Scenes depicting the 1916 rising, Ireland’s women’s liberation movement, emigration, the Troubles, Charles Haughey’s State of the Nation address, the Celtic Tiger, Anglo-Irish Bank’s leaked tape recordings and the last recession, are defined by mellifluous song, spoken word or music such as Seán Ó Riadas ‘Ag Críost an Síol’, ‘Grace’ by Frank and Seán O’Meara and Michael Longley’s poem, ‘Ceasefire’.

The set is constantly changing, evolving and even participating in proceedings. The backdrop is a screen for old images and film reels but also for the projection of the players movements as they occur in real time. Dancers intertwine with its ribboned strips. Props are there not only as supports but in the case of the nine chairs or two perspex cubes, are suggestive of art installations in and of themselves.

When, towards the end, the troupe unite for a bar scene tableau inside one of the perspex cubes to sing an emotive and rousing rendition of Shaun Davey’s ‘The Parting Glass’, there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

The stagecraft and dramaturgy of Palimpsest, set this production, and indeed this company, apart. David Bolger and his team are vanguards. The choreography, which is a collaboration between Bolger and the dancers themselves, is excellent. The old woman of Ireland is mesmerising, her performance powerful. And the music is superb. If I have just one criticism, it is that the Anglo tapes scene and a dance solo in the final section are slightly protracted.

CoisCéim has managed to capture the zeitgeist of the last century in Ireland, evoking the rich and colourful tapestry of our cultural, political and social heritage and what it means to be Irish. In words from the English translation of today’s hauntingly beautiful performance of Bánchnoic Éireann Ó (Donncha Rua Mac Conamara) – “And to all that yet survive of Eibher’s tribe on earth, on the fair hills of Éire Ó.”

Ran Until 23rd March 2024.

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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