Say Nothing and Yes, Yes, Yes

Ridiculismus
Barbican
(2003)

I was very glad that I saw both Say Nothing and Yes, Yes, Yes, the two shows currently in the Ridiculismus' repertoire, on the same evening. Taken together they are a remarkable testimony to the striking versatility of David Woods and Jon Hough.

The first piece is performed by the two actors, in smart suits, on a suitcase topped with a clod of turf, their backdrop a sheet of corrugated iron emblazoned with graffiti: DEMCOMMISSION THIS. It is soon evident we are hopping back and forth from a boarding house in Donegal to Derry as returned native Kevin discovers that his PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies is unlikely help him make a dent in entrenched sectarian attitudes. Kevin embodies our outsider's inability to even begin to comprehend Northern Ireland. He expects a hearty Irish sympathy across the border, in Derry's wild and beautiful 'backyard', Donnegal. Instead, in a country so proud of its use of language, a native inability to listen to outsiders, incumbent on an island race obsessed with its own historical identity, makes a major contribution to his breakdown. There is simply no point in talking to someone who doesn't want to hear what you have to say, something he learns far to late to save himself as he persists in believing he can make a contribution to bringing the two communities together with middle-English, social worker niceties.

This is a slick piece of wit, irony and claustrophobia, often bleakly and embarrassingly funny, superbly performed, and in just seventy minutes it captures the essential problem of the Northern Ireland conflict in a nutshell. Accolades must go to Jon Haugh for his rapid and powerful transformations back and forth between a frighteningly self-absorbed landlady to a very imposing Proddie, who spits out his gibberish text with the speed and precision of a Kalshnikov. And all enacted with their trademark physicality on top of a suitcase!

As if to impress us with the fact that we really do live in a global village Ridiculismus moves us from Ireland to India for Yes, Yes, Yes, a performance of an entirely different ilk. One critic has said of their work, that it is like watching Waiting for Godot performed by custard-pie wielding clowns, but to refer to this piece as absurdist would be an understatement. Woods and Haugh prefer to sum up their clowning style with the acronym ARSEFLOP (see the upcoming interview on the website for further details).

Yes, Yes, Yes is an utterly, toe-cringingly delightful and disgusting anarchic rant loosely centred on the mad Anglo-Indian, Harry Murthi and his side-kick Chatterjay. While the company modestly claim it is a 'play about chaos', it is really Milligan on speed meets the Marx Brothers on acid to send the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary scuttling back to their desks to redefine the word 'mayhem' as a new and exciting theatrical genre. It zips from lunacy to insanity by way of satire and philosophy as the audience is showered with David Woods' adrenaline and a few other things besides. Their capacity for invention is truly staggering, the pacing so skilled, their habit of engaging with the audience so unsettling, you can't make sense of it while you are enjoying the moment, you have to take it home with you and cherish it.

On a day when the Guardian informed me that the European economy is still heading for recession, that the value of my flat would plummet and my mortgage soar, and the moron in Washington is still leading us by the nose into a bloody conflagration, I think I'd like to nurture some healthy insanity by signing up with the school of arseflop!

Playing until 4th January.

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher