The Shepherd’s Chameleon at the CLF Art Café
Considering its fairly low profile, it is not surprising to see only a few people attending The Shepherd’s Chameleon. The play by Eugène Ionesco, one of the cornerstones of the Theatre of the Absurd, is currently running at the CLF Art Café under the direction of Moji Kareem and produced by Utopia Theatre.
The small venue on the third floor of the Bussey Building can just about host a few over a hundred people, but this only results in more intimacy. There is no curtain to separate the actors from the public, and although there is no actual involvement of the audience, the space chosen for the performance has clearly been envisaged precisely so that the spectators feel part of the play. After all, as we are reminded, if the performances weren’t addressed to a public they wouldn’t make sense.
So we are immediately plunged into the manic, frustrating world of the playwright, Ionesco himself, who’s sitting desperately trying to find the inspiration and concentration to finish his play, which needs to be perfect. His writing is constantly interrupted and influenced by three characters, all named Bartholomeus, representing different, divergent consciences of the author. The play is mostly a chaotic argumentative dialogue on theatre, its essence and function. The creative process is debated over in an unsolved attempt to (re)define its role until we go full circle. We discover it is a vicious cycle indeed, and we are left without answers, perhaps because we have to find our own. At the end of the play, Ionesco’s monologue sounds more like a nonsense Joyce-esque stream of consciousness in the form of a confession or a call for help.
Lucie Chester as Bartholomeus I and Olivia Nicholson as Bartholomeus II are convincing in their neurotic performances, while Sarah Sharman as Bartholomeus III and Thom Solberg as Ionesco are in contrast not particularly impressive. Overall, The Shepherd’s Chameleon is well done, though perhaps still too avant-garde in 2013 to attract a larger audience. Nonetheless, while the effect may not be immediate, it makes us ponder, and if we really pause for a moment and reflect, we understand that many of the wicked truths told are actually perfectly reasonable.
The Shepherd’s Chameleon is at the CLF Art Café until 25th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.