Throats: A world in pieces
Internationally acclaimed director and playright Gerald Thomas launched his London Dry Opera Company with the show Throats in February, and Jungle went along to check it out.
Once the lights dim we have plenty of time to sink into the darkness while listening to the notes of a deep piano melody. What follows is an intriguing dialogue where an assertive voice instructs the second person’s imagination, endorsing or disapproving of their responses. After the sound of a car crash, we are introduced to the first visual images of Throats: a dinner table set amongst the debris of the World Trade Centre, a wounded head lying on top of it, and a pompous mâitre d’hôtel who carries out his honours to the spectators. All of this was constricted by a transparent panel, a tangible fourth wall that separated the stage area from the seats of the audience, guiding us from an immersive sound experience into a more pictorial one.
The butler, whose bald head constantly bleeds, welcomes his guests to this macabre version of the Last Supper. One by one, the characters present themselves, their attitudes both daunting and fearful. Some of them mention the orders they have received from a certain “he” – who could perhaps be understood as the same man whose voice we heard in the beginning.
The atmosphere is sobering and dense, with a hint of irony. However, shards of comedy also bring some humorous aspects to the piece: for example, with a character randomly dressed in a Brazilian football strip, and a man in blue high heels who states, in the middle of a serious discussion, that he is John Malkovich.
During the piece, some of the dramaturge’s political concerns are made clear through his use of text. There are allusions to realistic and fictional ‘facts’ of happenings in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, New York, London and Berlin. In another instance, a woman walks in carrying a tray that contains different drugs, ID cards, European passports, recipes for Molotov cocktails and biological weapons. Moreover, constant references are made to the attack of September 11th, as well as a possible conspiracy in which that same woman seems to be, or not, involved.
There is a religious debate in Throats as one of its characters often affirms having reached a low point in her devotion to God, whilst a – black – orthodox Jew admits feeling excited before he is seen crucified after a change in the set. In this new image, there is a big cross that resembles the one erected by the rescue workers of the WTC, created from remains of the towers. In this scene, the characters alternate who is to be crucified and they often touch upon the theme of independence.
As it draws to an end Throats does begin to lose a grasp on the audience’s attention with the use of some loosely presented images, and dialogues that become wearing, leaving an unresolved feeling along with a great deal of wine – a metaphor for human blood – spilled around the stage.
In more traditional terms, there is little to be comprehended from this piece’s sequence of facts, but this does not affect its overall value. Its fragmented dramaturgy offers us a rich collection of images and references that are recurring all through the play, giving clues to our interpretation. It would seem that those who do not simply endeavour to find a coherent narrative can actually connect with the piece, and thus, attribute to it a sense of wholeness. A thought-provoking experience.
By Mafê Toledo