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Douglas

performed by Robbie Synge

A man stands atop a rolled-up dance mat, creating a tower that is half-dancer, half-object and reaches up towards the ceiling. Robbie Synge's Douglas is about balance and unbalance, risky experiments and continuous failure. The mat, several wooden chairs and two spotlights are his partners, but instead of showing off virtuoso, circus-like manipulation he allows the objects to lead and manipulate him. Running on the rolled mat that escapes his footsteps, or spinning a chair roped to his waist, he abandons his body to inertia. Douglas is actually a duet, a shared and egalitarian dance between the organic and the inorganic. Synge's trembling legs, waving arms and nervously blinking eyes show that he's clumsy, insecure and human, like all of us.


In a desolate, industrial landscape Robbie Synge balances precariously on a large rubber tube. He seems unaware of us: with bated breath and a furrowed brow, his sole focus is the concrete below. Like Tom Hanks with his castaway football friend, an assortment of objects – chairs, breezeblocks, ropes and cords - are his only companions. A blur occurs: does Synge possess an architectural body, or are the objects humanised? With log rolling, crash landings into lights, and orbiting chairs, Synge experiments with gravity with varying degrees of success: indeed, his deadweight collapses are met with empathetic groans from the audience. A recurring motif of an escaping ping-pong ball resets him. Accompanied by David Maxwell’s enchanting live sound, this work experiments with authentic risk. DOUGLAS crowns Robbie Synge as Scotland’s own Little Prince.


Caution! The situation in Pilsen’s perfectly rusty Papírna is unstable and brittle. A man stands on a rolled-up dance floor pillar, three fragile old chairs tilted beside it. Eventually he jumps down, causing a carefully thought-out domino effect with the props around him. He is Robbie Synge as Douglas - a constructor or exploring stage engineer who's incessantly reassorting a set of simple objects: tying ropes, plugging and unplugging cables, balancing on a twirling cylinder, assembling chairs and stage lights in the revelatory manner of a man-child. It's simple stage physics, but Synge can be Sisyphus or any lonely male preoccupied with reinventing things from scratch. Genuinely curious and innocently courageous, Synge evokes vividly the bare force of human creativity.


Who, or what, is Douglas – a roll of black linoleum, or a pseudonym of Scotland’s Robbie Synge, this show’s creator, who develops an intimate onstage relationship with that cylindrical object? Presented in a late-night slot upstairs in the warehouse venue Papirna, and supported by musician David Maxwell, Synge’s clever and, some might say, even endearing solo is a simple but resonant performance in which the methodically experimental use of various props (including rope, several beat-up wooden chairs and a particularly errant ping pong ball) could be deemed metaphorical representations of a keep-trying attitude towards the precariousness and instability of living. Staged as a series of calculated, domino-effect accidents, the piece’s dead-pan absurdity, house-of-cards aesthetic and gentle cowboy physics are all bound together by Synge’s bearded, slightly Buster Keatonish presence. Although maybe less directly smitten than some, I certainly ‘get’ his and the work’s appeal.

 


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Spring Forward
22- 24 April 2016

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