This week we have Daniel Duma giving us his account of Calipo Theatre Company’s recent production Glitch in the Droichead Art Centre.
So let’s start from the start. You come into Stockwell Theatre, ordinarily quite a small stage, covered from most sides by foreboding black curtains to disguise the sacrilege of immersion-breaking props from the innocent eyes of novice theatre-goers. Since nearly every good play in existence necessitates this use of space, you rather appropriately expect the small stage to appear as such. However, the first initial shock of this showing of ‘Glitch’ hits you: The curtains aren’t used. In fact, as someone who routinely sees play at this theatre, it actually threw me for the longest time that no curtains were there. This helps create a more open space with a non-constricting atmosphere. (I will tell you in detail why that is such a genius move later on, but know that it is definitely so).
The next thing that hit me even before ‘Glitch’ began was the initial set design. It was very much minimalist, with the lighting being almost entirely restricted to vertical white lines, with one starkly showing itself in red. Tucked in the back of the stage but still sitting centre was a single chair, to be occupied by one half of the cast. On stage right (which is how the audience sees it, for those who inevitably forget it after a few hours) was where the main amount of props were focused: a single desk with accompanying chair, lamp and coffee mug. Thanks to the obvious lack of a computer, it’s clear that whoever owns this area is not working in the traditional sense of the word. All this minimalist set design ties directly into the main plot and themes of ‘Glitch’: what the explosion of mass communication has led to society becoming.
Michael Adams is a radio host, specifically of 103.2 DBR. Many shows have gimmicks, and his is that ‘it’s the show where you can say what you want’, regardless of how you say it. Things for him have been making that steady downward decline that a sitcom has when it dies a peaceful death due to losing ratings. He hit it big in double-digit years past, but now he isn’t so big. That is, until Jessie calls. She’s a single nurse with two children struggling to make it through life, who calls for reasons not fully revealed until the end of the play. After an extremely heated potential PR disaster which is successfully averted in a discussion with Jessie, the power in the area around Mike’s station crashes. Everything is brought back online with but a small amount of dead air… except for the station’s ability to receive calls. And in what seems to be a rather cruel twist of irony, the only person Mike can talk to now is Jessie. The conversation between the two makes up the remainder of the play and is one where Mike finally learns to listen and acknowledge his slow downfall.
Now here comes that genius explanation that I promised in the first paragraph: The stage is free because like the current state of 103.2 BDR, there isn’t anything to clutter it up. No aggressive amounts of callers, no ridiculous and overblown arguments, and no Mike shouting over everyone else to keep everything calm and comprehensible for the listeners. Instead it’s just him and Jessie talking to each other in probably the most honest way I’ve seen for a good while. It’s also not all doom and gloom about the world; there are humorous moments peppered lightly throughout the script, like the story of a Dublin Northside woman taking all three of her children to the emergency room because one had a fever and getting Calpol prescribed from a doctor to the sad (and sadly known) issue of marriages lost to the ravages of Facebook and Internet friends, the mood swings are all over the place. In a good way, of course.
The thing that likely impressed me the most, however, was the sound design. ‘Glitch’ opens with audio recordings that are… well, glitched out. Whether it’s the pitch, speed of the voice or a bit of vinyl-esque repetition, all sorts of distortive techniques make the intro if not fully innovative then most certainly memorable. The radio callers all have various levels of sound quality associated with them and it’s all very well timed with Mike’s lines to boot. When Jessie enters the conversation there is a subtle but simultaneously noticeable transition between potato quality to ‘oh-wait-she’s-actually-there-on-stage’ levels of audio comprehensibility which brings in our other cast member to the stage extremely well.
If I had any complaint, it’d be that even with the minimalist set design, nothing much is done with the stage aside from the characters’ bodies existing there. I personally would sacrifice the visual part of the play with even better audio production if I could. But ultimately, it’s a minor complaint after all the praise that I just heaped on this play in the previous paragraphs. ‘Glitch’ is a great play which is totally worth getting the chance to see someday.