Sylvia's Quest | Wonderland Theatre
Star Rating: 2/5
Title: Sylvia's Quest
Written, directed and produced by Alice Coghlan
Cast: Elitsa Dimova, Damien Devaney & Anne Marie O'Donovan
Wonderland Theatre's Sylvia's Quest is an ambitious promenade piece during which the audience are invited to join young immigrant cleaner Sylvia through the streets of Dublin as she endeavours to forge some sort of connection and sense of belonging in her adopted country.
Before the play begins, the amiable folk from Wonderland dish out personal radios and headphones to the assembled audience members, who are then instructed to wait for Sylvia, their focal point and guide, to appear. Despite the hustle and bustle surrounding the starting point at The Wooden Mills, Sylvia is instantly recognisable amongst the passers-by in her daffodil yellow coat and twee peasant style.
After the initial introductions, during which Sylvia asks to capture a smile from each of the participants, she takes off in the direction of The Ha'Penny Bridge beckoning her new "friends" to follow in her wake. What follows is one of the most curious theatrical events you're likely to experience as Sylvia, played by Bulgarian Elitsa Dimova, invites you to shadow her adventure through the cobbled streets of Temple Bar. Led by the encouragement of the god Orpheus and buoyed by the presence of her new companions, Sylvia attempts to overcome the xenophobic taunts that echo in her own mind and the audience's earphone.
While she struggles to block out the repetitious ridicules of "Invisible" from the likes of one dimensional character "Homeless Hazel", Dimova is impervious to the onslaught of abuse from the more genuine characters we encountered in our quest through Temple Bar. Although her character's narrative was needlessly complex and often difficult to engage with, Dimova's dedication to the performance cannot be faulted. Despite our unusual gathering attracting a good deal of unwanted attention from a myriad of characters, Dimova never veered from her story of destitution and loneliness in Ireland, at times even bravely drawing these unsuspecting spectators into her performance. Even through a surprise bout of torrential rain Dimova stayed on track, showing remarkable skill and perseverance as a performer.
Although these interruptions occasionally pull your attention away from the performance itself, alas it is the script that is the real stumbling block in Sylvia's quest. In an attempt to marry her wealth of research on Bulgarian history and myth with the more domestic tale of an immigrant's experience in Ireland, Coghlan overcomplicates matters and loses our interest in the character at the centre of it all. Wonderland should certainly be commended for pushing the boundaries in site specific theatre and incorporating multi-media into their work in new ways, however in the case of Sylvia's Quest the play itself is not nearly as exciting or interesting as the means by which it is delivered.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 16th August 2012 | Theatre
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