Director Heidi Manché writes for Art Speak about making live absurdist art in an absurd contemporary digital world.

Our communication in the digital age has indeed taken an absurd turn. We are inundated by hyper-sexualisation, curated images, the meme, the troll, stalking and the inward gaze as we curl into our smartphones.

One of the results of this is an increased anxiety about interacting with the real world. This is the experience of the orphans in The Eisteddfod. Playing out their adult longings and anxieties through curated roles enables them to both avoid the real world and understand the strange world which they have come to inhabit.

After the accidental death of their parents when they were young, the now adult children, Abalone and Gerture, spend their days in child-like games, acting out memories of their parents and other relationships. They remove themselves from the outside world and live among rising decay in a suburban room. The orphaned pair live out their days on the blurred edge of fantasy and reality.

The Eisteddfod is their story. They explore past trauma through role playing in a bid to understand and release it. The playwright herself, appears in the play and interacts with her characters – a comment on the act of creation and its role in helping the writer explore her own sufferings.

This tale is otherworldly, dreamlike, driven by the subconscious. It depicts both the absurd lure of cruelty and the need for protection from our own delusions. There are questions of love and loss, yearning and ambition – logic and a linear narrative fall short of expressing these experiences. In The Eisteddfod, the imagination, metaphors of agoraphobia and magical realism express a truth that our everyday communication simply cannot.

These characters are stuck in space and time, struggling to free themselves. Does the digital world create a similar sense of agoraphobia? Our need to feel connected and liked remains the same, however our methods of doing so are perhaps increasing our sense of isolation.

Art and imagination are a way to make sense of this bizarre world.  If digital communication is our most efficient and prevalent mode of communication then art, especially unorthodox in presentation, can present an alternative to this. A moment to reflect, feel and converse with real people in real time. Perhaps that is why we have congregated around fires, churches, arenas, theatres for millennia.

As absurd as this tale is, it is a critical observation of tomorrow’s world. It’s a contemporary tale and yet the oldest yarn in the world.

Heidi Manché

March 2018