And the rest is silence
29 March 2018
MOSCOS helps Louisa Doyle search for the right words
It might be a writing crisis. It might be my destiny. I’m wondering if MOSCOS are hiring extra mimes.
Talking is everything at NSDF. Chris Thorpe punctuates his speeches with a plea for us to continue our conversations every time the panels are over, so the Campus Centre rarely isn’t abuzz with discussion. What is special about the festival is that it is structured to sustain the conversations it starts. Workshops like “What do we do now?” scheduled for this Friday remind us not to shelve such issues, as if they have had all the airtime they need.
I’m ever so slightly running out of puff. I forget that sitting down to type means more than swivelling in on myself to mine for glittery nice ideas. Being surrounded by so many talented and eloquent people at NSDF is inspiring, but at times, threatening, and some days, I can only gulp when someone asks, “what did you think?” Then I begin to worry that I’m losing my voice in a way that Lemsip can’t fix.
Speech is scarce in Lion Theatre’s theatrical romp, MOSCOS. A script of its dialogue wouldn’t fill a page, unless someone has a language for the cacophony of mumbles, shrieks and squeals. Drawing on clown and mime techniques, the actors stumble through a playground of familiar objects, making all kinds of discoveries and small victories. The ragamuffins bicker and collaborate in a language that sounds like a Hasbros Bop-it. It’s nonsense, unless someone wants to postulate that they’re challenging the injustice of underappreciated comedy at awards ceremonies In Womble talk. After 1001010, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve missed a cryptic meaning.
The show opens with bashful chap Berney Mercer, silent and stranded on the island of his spotlight. “Fly Me to the Moon” starts up, the travel announcement that we’re shortly off for more extra-terrestial terrains. In the delay, Mercer’s dorky charm is infectious. He cranks up his lipsync to a jazz hand standard and the audience swiftly gets on board. Laughter for the mimes is encouragement without becoming an incentive. It’s more than permission. It visibily eggs them on.
The stage is taken over by mimes bashing up against the boundaries of their own theatrical form. There’s lots of knocking on curtains and chasing after spotlights. It isn’t original, but it’s endearing nonetheless, definately more impressive when I found out that Lion Theatre had next to no clowning experience before they began devising this work.
Up there in my most mesmerizing moments of the festival is the MOSCOS skit with the juke-box moonboots. Three actors play out a thorough, clumsy inquiry into the unexpected functions of a pair of shoes. One puts her ear to it like a phone and a cat chorus scratches from the speakers. The same trick on the other shoe laps out whisping sounds of the sea, before a girl sandwiches her head between the two boots and gets hypnotised by the hollow sound of inside a rocket. (This dribbling daze is the first of Maddie Lock’s many captivating performances. Her shy lion and poking around curtains is hilarious and magnetic).
The show does have a tendency to overplay its successes. The dressing-up box montage could have been half the length and achieved the same effect, if not better. The sketches of the mirror, the painter and the book war were imaginative concepts, but ones that exhaust themselves easily. A quicker interchange might have prevented my expectation that there would be some kind of narrative progression. Price has made it clear that this was not something she was very interested in pursuing, after several years of narrative practise not serving her well.
In today's discussion, there were differing opinions as to whether MOSCOS needed a more traditional, unifying plot. If it did, Price would have plenty of leads to follow that she has set up for herself. But then I remember that this is a piece about escapism. Being brave enough to explore new territory. If we’re throwing speech out the window, why not blow the window off the house and do away with what we know and expect from theatrical form? I can’t believe I’m saying that since I’ve seen so many plays with episodic plots that have pissed me off. But for MOSCOS, narrative is separate from structure because it’s characters still experience change. Poppet (Scarfman) creeps in and slips away as mysteriously as a dream, but I am left with the feeling that something special happened in between. Moscos’ theatrical language of uncanny shape and sound is just what I needed to tempt me back to talking.
Photo credit: Giulia Delprato