Icarus. Created and performed by Christopher Samuel Carroll. Sound designer: Kimmo Vennonen. Lighting designer: Jed Buchanan. The Street Theatre. February 27 to March 3. thestreet.org.au.
Icarus, a solo show created and performed by Christopher Samuel Carroll, has one very obvious strength. Carroll has an exceptional ability to present a message, and carry a story, using his body as the messenger.
Whether he is opening a window, peeling and eating a banana (skin and all), being tossed at sea in a boat and then being washed ashore, or consumed by anxiety by events around him, his wordless narrative is all very clear to the audience.
The structure of the production, however, is a little confusing at times.
In the opening moments Carroll plays a young man in an unidentified location, looking after his pet cat, going shopping and generally being unaware of what is happening outside his window. After these opening moments, the production takes on an episodic format and we are rocketed from one incident to another in a somewhat chaotic manner.
Carroll becomes involved in journeys of various kinds. At one stage he seems to be travelling in the back of a truck with chickens, which he has to fend off. Another time he appears to eat his cat.
At various times there are frightening moments when he is knocked around by a barrage of guns and other items of war. The world outside Carroll’s window is at war, which has been apparent to us, if not to him, from the beginning of the production.
But if it is hard at first to make sense of the chaotic flow of the largest portion of narrative, towards the end of this 55-minute work things become clearer.
Carroll stows away in the landing gear of a plane and we watch as he hangs on for dear life as the plane takes off. But, as happened in a real-life refugee story, in the end he falls from the sky.
Icarus then comes full circle back to the house we know from the opening scenes. Carroll calls an emergency line to say that while walking his dog he finds a dead body not far from his front door.
It is then that we realise the series of random events, some amusing, some terrifying, have been the stories of attempts, not always successful, to survive the difficulties of life experienced by many as they seek safety from the horrendous circumstances of war.
In many respects the work is held together by a fabulous soundscape from Kimmo Vennonen. It gives us the sound of planes taking off, chickens squawking, cats miaowing, guns being fired, food being crunched in the mouth.
So, while the production is wordless in terms of spoken dialogue from Carroll, Vennonen’s soundscape clearly situates each incident.
From its title Icarus reminds us of the well-known myth of the young man, wearing wings of wax, who flew too close to the sun and fell to earth as the wax melted. But Carroll, Vennonen, and lighting designer Jed Buchanan have used that story as a kind of metaphor.
The dream of Icarus to be able to fly becomes a series of dreams relating to those who find themselves in intolerable situations. The production pushes us headlong into those dreams.