[20060020] Absence and Presence

Absence and Presence

Andrew Dawson @ Queens Theatre

8:30pm, Mon 27 Feb 2006

Score: 3

Ick. This is a tough one to write up. “Absence and Presence” is an intimate creation in which Andrew Dawson works through the death of his father. Due to his solitary life, his body lay undiscovered for 10 days; the trauma from this event inspired Dawson to create this somewhat autobiographical work.

The production – the imagery, the audio, the performance – is magnificent. The opening soundtrack of household noises (clocks, a fridge, a phone) sets the scene perfectly; the visual effect where Dawson pushes a TV to “pan” across an image is sublime. We’re introduced to his father in video, and as a figure in a chair made from a wire mesh. We see the passage of time through Dawson’s hands masquerading as a moth, fluttering around a naked bulb. There’s the occasional moments of levity – his father seeing Andy perform in the theatre for the first time, and their chess game has a certain wonder about it; and the projected shadows of the dancing mesh figure at the end of the performance are mesmerising.

Dawson is clearly an accomplished performer in mime, in movement – the aforementioned moth is wonderfully expressed using only his hands, his physical description of aging as he walks the length of the stage is beautifully done. And this performance, given its deeply personal nature, is clearly a labour of love. It drips with sentimentality… but that’s the problem. It’s wallowing in feelings I’m not privy to, nor am I able to conjure on the basis of the performance. This is typified by the sense of loss Dawson tries to generate with the ring falling through the water – it was wonderfully realised by his actions, and I understand the emotion he was trying to impart – but did we have to watch it for 5 bloody minutes, accompanied by some overly bombastic music?

“Absence and Presence” is a polished production which really didn’t connect with me… at all. Many people will love it – if the ‘Tiser can give “The Travellers” 4-and-a-half stars, this would surely be worth 5 – but not me. Sorry.

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