Review: Incantata a brilliantly unstable experience

Padraic Killeen reviews Incantata at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway

Pulsating with a furious energy, and featuring the poet’s trademark verbal contortions, Paul Muldoon’s ‘Incantata’ — written in grief-stricken tribute to his deceased lover, Mary Farl Powers — certainly boasts a drama bold enough for the stage.

What makes this a remarkable piece of theatre, however, is director Sam Yates’s

frenzied use of sound and vision to complement, and foil, Muldoon’s raw and riveting lament. The latter is delivered here by Stanley Townsend, who is intense and sensitive.

Like Muldoon’s poem, the play interrogates the capacity of art to negotiate grief, and it simmers with a suspicion that, actually, art may be impotent. In a frenzied moment of misleading catharsis, Townsend will step out of the pupa of an artist’s jumpsuit, as if transformed; but he is not healed.

Significantly, Muldoon’s furious elegy fits in references to everyone from Burt Lancaster to Thomas Aquinas, while inventively channelling Samuel Beckett. It all makes for a brilliantly unstable experience, the play teetering between order and disorder, as Townsend’s wild cacophony of memory fragments struggles to extract from life some sense of a redemptive unity.

(Until Jul 27)

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