Polish avant-garde artist, playwright, novelist and philosopher S.I. Witkiewicz posited “with fiction, you don’t make a fuss – you can ‘beat it’ and there’s never enough. Cause there are people, who complain about style intensity in literature: they prefer cereals with milk than Abyssinian bitches roasted alive on bringhausers and watered with ya-yoo juice”… if you imagine yourself as someone who can handle this degree of “style intensity”, you are within the lucky minority perhaps able to appreciate Wayward Theatre Productions’ version of his play, A Deed Without a Name.
This production is apparently “a dark comedy about the revolution, the downfall of civilisation and the end of free art”, and this very well may be true: it’s just difficult to know for sure. Indeed, it’s hard to fully explain the plot, or even fully understand it; so many thematic ideas are present, pushed to the limit by Giorgio Galassi’s wild direction. At one moment it’s a cultural breakdown of the role of legacy and metaphysicality in landscape painting, the next it’s a discussion on the intersection between love, duty, class and espionage. The narrative oscillates between these subject matters as well as 13 characters, each with their own story that is complex and pathos-rich enough to warrant being the sole focus of the play. Instead of committing to a single one, each is instead juggled at a break-neck pace: its the pointed-meaning of Brecht by the way of Artaud’s form-busting sensibilities.
This isn’t to say, however, the production isn’t enjoyable: there’s something overwhelmingly encaptivating about the whole thing. Perhaps this can be attributed to the cast, who seem to be attempting to one-up each other in terms of how eccentric they can make their characterisations, finding endless fun in doing so. Moreover, the cast itself is a varied group: some seem to be consummate professionals, completely adept at being on stage, whereas others appear to be new to this world, not yet comfortable enough to deliver their lines or contribute to the ensemble. Yet again, oxymoronically, this somehow reinforces the production – as if this wonderful mismatch of abilities is intended, as to mirror the disjointed nature of the script. It should also be noted that there is no way to identify who plays who – although a cast list is provided, it is never specified who plays what part; even beyond its performance, A Deed Without a Name drags you into a guessing game.
Moreover, even Aurelie Freoua’s design supports this crazed nature. For example, the set design is set up to ask unanswered questions as much as it exists to contextualise the narrative: piles of rubbish, anachronistic objects, huge ways of cash, and so much more exist on edges of the performance space – they are never used nor addressed. In this regard, it would appear the off-kilter randomness that defines the plot has also permeated into the set design!
Ultimately, It is difficult to judge and quantify the production, in the same way it’s difficult in judge and quantify a kaleidoscope: with so many intercutting patterns and characters and trends and ideas and plots, all of which appear and disappear at such a rapid pace, the only real option possible is to sit back and try to enjoy the ride. Go see it if you like a challenge.