FRINGE REVIEW: "Icarus" soars high, but not too close to the sun
“Don’t fly too close to the sun.”
A common phrase derived from the mythos of the Greek story of Icarus, the boy who was gifted wings of wax and feathers by his father but was drowned in the ocean, after his wings burnt from soaring to close to the sun. Walking into this short and sweet hour-long play, I had no idea what to expect, aside from a solo performance about a refugee of some sort.
I was hoping for some sort of a big metaphorical payoff in the form of a homage to its title, and I wasn’t disappointed. Irish-born performance artist Christopher Samuel Carroll delivers a captivating solo performance incorporating audio cues, mime and expression to deliver a tale of hope, spirit, courage and man’s struggle in the face of war and conflict. With no props on stage, or dialogue apart from audio cues, Carroll utilises a host of subtle yet meticulously crafted movements to communicate a vast array of everyday (and every other day) actions. While it is obvious what these actions are, the interpretation of them, or rather misinterpretation by the audience, is what delivers the revelation of “Oh god, so that’s what that bit was for!”. Perhaps this wasn’t (you’ll know what I mean if you see it) done on purpose, but if it was, I can only say that I was left with quite an impactful experience. Said impact was felt all the way home, lingering on my mind as I dozed off to sleep.
Based in a somewhat modern setting, we are met with a young and naïve character who lives alone, preferring the company of cats and violent video games to the company of real people. Once confronted with the very real presence and danger of soldiers marching down the street and fighter jets soaring above his house, Carroll begins communicating the plot and character in an exaggerated and slapstick manner. The character’s fear and struggle to leave his house expressed by a shutdown of the motor functions of his right leg, his hunger expressed by exaggerated over the top finger licking that comes off as comical and humorous but conveys a very tragic and real message of desperation in the times of war and the will to to survive. While delivered in a humorous and slapstick fashion, Icarus’s overall tone presents something much more different and confronting than Carroll’s miming and over the top facial expressions initially suggest. Audio cues used suggest a totally normal and seemingly indifferent world, one that contrasts and juxtaposes the world through the lens of the young character Carroll plays. Despite the lack of dialogue, Icarus succeeds in constructing a vulnerable and relatable character which I think we can all identify with. How would we respond if life as we knew it were thrusted into the chaos and horrors of war? Would we pick up our sticks and guns and fight like we would do in our video games and movies or would we cower in our houses for days on end hoping it’s all a dream?
Our fetishisation of war and conflict has seeped through our media and has contorted it into a glorified power fantasy, where we have the means and justification by authority to kill faceless no name others through our warped image of self-righteousness. Icarus explores the idea of our perceptions of war quite excellently by transitioning from a war video game world into the real one with clever audio cues and a stellar performance contrasting our ideas of how we’d imagine we’d react in times of conflict versus how we would react. Despite the almost slapstick movements from Carroll, there is something distinctly human about his performance. Our ability to identify with the character and his experiences of suffering, loss, and desperation, but also his experiences of hope, courage, determination, and overcoming adversity is owed to Carroll’s performance and proves that our human experience in suffering and happiness is universally shared, universally understood, and universally accepted.
4.5 out or 5 stars
Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Bare Witness Theatre Company, “Icarus” is currently showing at The Blue Room Theatre as part of Fringe World 2019 till February 12. Ticket details here.