Monday, 26 September 2011

The Fire Burns and Burns (Peter McMaster and Nic Green) @ The Arches

I am surprised at how little I worried about being naked with a group of strangers.

Nic Green's greatest hit was Trilogy - a tentative adventure into feminism in the post-ideological age - and featured large numbers of naked dancing women. Green's enthusiasm for breaking the fourth wall had led to a finale where female audience members were invited to join in a nude rendition of Jerusalem. The Fire teams her with partner Peter McMaster and revisits many of Trilogy's themes: community, inclusion, the personal as the political and, of course, people in the scud.

Taking the format of a mini-sweat lodge, The Fire is a step beyond even immersive theatre.It's a happening, a secular ritual. Fire is a repeated motif, much in the way that the host is used in Mass. It heats the hot stones, it is a metaphor for passion, it lights the candles that represent us as a community.

My own alienation is rarely a surprise to me.

The Fire Burns and Burns is barely concerned with any of the usual conventions of theatre. The quality of the script is irrelevant - although the song that McMaster and Green use to bid us farewell has a charming ambiguity. Their performances are merely explanations of the next step in the ritual. The event itself is merely a recreation of a spiritual initiation process. If I feel nothing - who is at fault?

Although I feel no shame at being naked, or being washed by the performers - I have done this sort of thing with Adrian Howells - I feel little else. No great revelations emerge: I am not challenged, I am not presented with an idea that I have never considered. I smile at other people in the group, but I have not shared anything with them.

Green and McMaster appear to be chasing some fine ideas: the rescue of ritual from the spiritual dustbin, the development of a theatre that allows the audience to find a personal response, a celebration  of the possibility of community. But The Fire fails to ignite my own sense of connection.

My passivity is a matter of concern to me.

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