theater simple @ The Ballroom (Carclew Youth Arts Centre)
4:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006
It was always my intention to see The Fever twice during FF2006, if only because I knew that the experience of hosting a salon performance would cloud my perception of the performance itself. Thus, I reasoned, I should catch a theatrical presentation so that I could fully appreciate the power of the piece.
So all my plans and theories get crushed into tiny little bits and thrown away when, shows scheduled and tickets bought, Llysa tells me that this one-off Carclew performance was intended to be an encore salon-type presentation, demonstrating the piece in a non-theatrical setting to those who missed out on the opportunity of attending a salon performance themselves. Bugger, but no matter; I cunningly snaffled my seat in a comfy couch at the back of the packed room and focused on the work at hand.
Of course, a lot of the words were familiar, but – in the bright light of day, in surroundings unfamiliar – The Fever took on a very different feel, a different texture. I could lean back, close my eyes, and drink the overtly lyrical text in; hear the conflicts and struggle of a character, see in it so much of myself, let pictures be painted in my mind through closed eyelids blurred red from the sunlight streaming into the room.
And it really is a glorious piece of writing. Wallace Shawn’s work is both personal and political, revels in both the minutiae and the massive. We travel with The Speaker, flitting in time throughout their life, observing the moments that define and the actions that conflict. For someone both outwardly assured and privileged, their internal struggles to reconcile past opportunities in the present situation are both alien in context and familiar in content.
I open my eyes, and the room is still. The Fever has gripped the audience, and as The Speaker staggers to their feet in the cold light of day, Llysa Holland bookends the performance by passing through the stunned crowd. The applause is hesitant at first, then loud and longing. The lingerers – and there are many, myself included – are the people who are genuinely affected by the power of theater simple’s work, and by Shawn’s delirious writing.