Darkroom by Gentle Giant Theatre Company is a strange beast. Brought to see it by a friend, I only knew what I read in the Fringe Festival programme:
DC and Marvel superheroes and supervillains face extinction. The Anarchic Invincibility Deficiency Syndrome unmasks masked idols and Supermen fade to grey. When the world falls darker than Joker’s soul, something sharper than Wolverine’s claws will save us. Heroic Couplets, comic book duality and a touch of La Ronde from award-winning writer Neil Watkins.
This blurb is deliberately, perversely deceptive. There are no superheroes here, Batman is nowhere to be seen. However, at one stage, at the edge of my seat, mouth open, I was thinking of writing my first one-line rave review on this blog: “Go see this fucking show”. But then, I thought, “don’t get high on this intoxicating atmosphere, wait until I connect, I’m moved, until I get the story, until it all makes some sort of meaningful sense”.
It didn’t. Like an exciting trick from Gaydar, it seemed, in the poppers-rushed moment, to be an important and intense experience; but, the morning after, the room smelling of stale socks, head throbbing, tongue like sandpaper, I am wondering what on Earth possessed me.
It is still, however, required viewing for anyone interested in modern queer Irish sensibility – for playwright Neil Watkins turns out to be the man behind the drag act called Heidi Konnt, who apparently won Alternative Miss Ireland in 2005, the year before I returned to Ireland. It’s edgy, sexual, and perverse enough to set up nervous laughter in some segments of the audience, (no doubt those expecting men in Superman costumes doing something silly). Part burlesque, part Cabaret, part Hedwig, it’s morbid and desolate and disconsolate and seductive, and yet somehow strangely insubstantial for all that. Curiouser and curiouser.