Arches Live – Friday 24th September

Blog by Colin Chaloner | 06 Oct 2010
  • The Arches

Fiction writing’s just therapy isn’t it? It’s all just self-justifying interior monologue dressed up as social commentary, of more utility to its author than its audience. At least autobiography wears its solipsism on its sleeve.

In Plucked of Purpose – The Adventures of P.B. Skye Loneragan seizes the opportunity to dwell on her own inadequacy with masochistic delight. She’s a rolling stone, and when trapped in an airport by an erupting volcano she’s forced to admit she wasn’t going anywhere anyway. The grumbling is fleshed out by the parallel narrative of ‘Plastic Bag’ or ‘P.B.’, the downtrodden dancer in the wind. This plastic bag is a powerful symbol of someone buffeted by fate, empty, unwanted, yet so full of tragic potential. But it’s also instantly recognizable as the key metaphor from 90s emo-whinge American Beauty, and it’s a reminder that middle class boredom and self-obsession form the whole core of ‘Plucked of Purpose’. Unfortunately, though Loneragan is at times inventive and funny, deftly shifting from self to bag to philosopher-dancer, boredom is often as dull to hear about as it is to experience.

Chris Hall leaves himself out of the performance altogether in The Note and goes for the big themes – love, regret, joy, sorrow. You’re left waiting in the bar with a note, you read it to the next audience member, they take the note, and so it goes on. It was one of those quiet little poetic happenings that punctuate a night at the Arches, and develop the sense of community and shared experience.

Communities inevitably share many experiences, and autobiographical work needs to be conscious of this. You could guess a lot, for example, about Ben Dunn and his relationship with his father, and A Booming Voice would be unlikely to contradict it. Angus Dunn and son are earnest and amiable, they read and think and tell stories, they’re not materialistic, they enjoy simple beautiful things, and, like most people in their position, they enjoy a good sneer at the macho posturings of the unenlightened. Dunn’s technical proficiency as a musician, performer and puppeteer makes A Booming Voice a diverting spectacle, and it’s hard to be mad with someone so lovely. But the play is so uncritically celebratory of the two men’s uniqueness that it is incapable of saying anything about their actual position as unremarkable representatives of two generations of nice twee people.