Corcadorca the site-specific Cork theatre company herded a willing audience up and down narrow flights of stairs in a dark set of cinema and nightclub spaces at the Savoy Centre and plunged them into a grim, uncomfortable newish Russian play – Plasticine – by hard-drinking, sensation-seeking playwright Vassily Sigarev.
From the opening moment when the audience are led into a night club space and are raked and partially blinded by searchlight beams and then to be confronted by a young man hanging from a beam – a meaningless suicide.
Without time for familiarisation we meet, alienated teenager Maksim who makes models out of plasticine and pours molten lead into moulds to create a strange personal world that he tried to make shape and sense of. A coffin is lowered from up on high on a balcony like a block of flats and the play gathers visceral pace where there are no redeeming factors or people and friends are users in several senses of that word.
Maksim’s friend Loyka is struggling with homosexual feelings and attempts to touch Maksim up when they sneak into a showing of Caligula. The bestiality of Caligula is a metaphor in this play for all sorts of human degradation.
In quick succession we get violence, queer bashing and lewd behaviour in toilets, perverted sexual acts, gross language, a formal wedding that ends in a beating. There are examples of power, privilege, status and abuse of same. Loyka is a bragging – gave her one – knowing but corrupted innocent and he leads Maksim into a stomach-churning rape and buggery by two older men in a cage-like rubbish-filled structure.
Athus is unrelenting stuff and only slows down for moments of depression, despair or Maksim making plasticine objects like a twelve inch penis for willy-wagging at an authoritarian female teacher. He seems to be slowly poisoned by breathing lead fumes that brings nose bleeds and the hanged boy appears throughout the play as if luring him to death not salvation.
Theatre needs to be as confrontational as this but it was not easy viewing. While this is an ensemble piece with ten actors and maybe fifteen extras Caoilfhionn Dunne is a memorable Maksim. Conor MacNeill was an edgy blustery Loyka, with Mark D’Aughton as a vicious thug. Noelle Browne and Sorcha Fox also impressed.
Pat Kiernan directed like a man obsessed, Maree Kearns designed sets and costumes. John Grubb stage managed and Cormac O’Connor did the impressive sound and video design with live cam and recorded images.