The Rorschach Test (Barn Theatre, 23rd June 2016)
The Rorschach test, although very recognisable in image, may be unfamiliar by name - just as this play offers that gorgeous possibility that the ideas it evokes may not be instantly recognizable but will dawn upon you at a later date, as all good abstract theatre does. The Rorschach test is, as described in the play's programme, a psychiatric tool to test the mental stability of psychiatric patients. They are shown a series of abstract ink-blots and asked to describe what they see. These descriptions could range from an abstract pattern to a vivid description of an object, scene or situation1.
The play was presented in the theatre's studio, a lovely little space with only twenty seats for this performance. Although a piece of new 'writing' as such, scenes clearly held true to their inspirations. I felt uncomfortable however with the suggestions that ideas were used as a "springboard into the style and feel of absurdist theatre"2. The scenes were clearly recognisable from their original source, yet these were not credited within the piece, nor were they credited in the programme directly, which I found rather irritating. For example, one particularly comedic scene involved soldiers whom don't know who they are fighting for, nor where they are going. The characters and dialogue felt very much like Blackadder. For some of the sections, the original work was not a concept from which to diverge and create, but instead a backbone from which to slightly manipulate.
However despite the lack of credit given to the original texts, the piece did have some original, interesting and challenging elements. Of particular resonance was a section where a young Austen-esque couple meet by the river, unperturbed and rather irritated by a peculiar wailing from a man who I assumed is drowning in the river. With hindsight it draws connotations to current media representation, such as the reports of 'outrageous' queues at Dover, ruining people's summer holidays due to increased security after horrific terrorist attacks suffered in the continent. Human ambivalence surrounding empathy was a prominent, and welcomed, theme which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The play's relevancy felt refreshing for a local production, outside the usual realms of 'safe' theatre such as Alan Bennett and the like. It was also a joy to see so many of the Barn's dedicated audience members trying out something new.
Overall I felt the play was more self-indulgent that the creator/performers would like to let on, with ten minute dance interludes with no obvious purpose. However it was an
exciting addition to the rural theatre's repertoire, and creation of such experimental work in the difficult artistic climate we have should be recognised and celebrated.
2. see above