Always happy to take a recommendation I booked my ticket. "The shows should be seen together," the blurb said, so I dutifully bought into the two-ticket deal and looked forward to a couple of evenings off the sofa and into the stalls.
The shows were Fishamble's Silent and Olivier-award-winning Underneath. Both written and performed by Pat Kinevane, of whom I knew nothing except he was a 'very physical performer'. I also knew nothing of the shows, other than their names, which could mean anything.
This play was first, more expensive and the one with all the awards. As a first timer at a Pat Kinevane performance, I had no idea what to expect, other than a physical performance (which in fairness can mean different things to different people). I spent the next ninety minutes enjoying what can only be described as a masterclass in physical, engaging, beautiful performance.
There were times when it felt like I was watching a piece of living art: Egyptian iconography, simple but effective use of props and moments of pure dance, weaved within the tales of a spirit whose short, sad life had been one of pain and persecution.
Incorporating observational commentary worthy of any stand-up show, Kinevane took the audience on a journey that was funny, poignant and thought-provoking.
Audience participation, which was possibly some of the most extensive I've ever seen, helped him build a character that was both likeable and warm, allowing us to enjoy her tale and making the outcome all the more touching.
If I'm honest, the story didn't really do it for me and there was just a little too much 'thought-provocation' going on for my tastes.
However, I LOVED the way he manipulated his body into the Egyptian figures and, using two sheets of gold, was able to re-create iconic images of the ancient ones.
Now knowing what to expect, I settled into another ninety minutes of expert storytelling. This time with a little less room, and a baby bump that makes comfort difficult, you would think the evening would be less enjoyable. However, this second show had me gripped from the start.
The story of homeless Tino McGoldrig and his sad route to living on the streets. This time the imagery was influenced by the silent movies, with the highlight being Kinevane's re-telling of Tino's brother's suicide attempts through intermittent 'movie' sequences.
Perhaps it's because the subject of mental health is closer to my heart, or maybe because I love silent movies, it could be because I knew what to expect, but felt more of a connection to the story in this show.
Again Convene provided a masterclass in use of props, lighting, sound, shadow, storytelling and of course physicality.
Probably the most impressive and stand out element of both shows was Kinevane's ability to move from character to character, and express himself physically. This is, of course, why I was there and I watched in awe as this large, shaved headed man, had us believing he was a childlike girl one moment and an Egyptian Goddess the next. Or a mentally disturbed down and out, an Irish mother and a 1920s silent film star in the space of five minutes. The illusion was never broken, simply changed from one character and sequence to another. And we were never lost, simply guided, with gentle sensitivity, to witness some of the most unpleasant and disturbing truths of the world in which we live.
Kinevane's ability to move between endearing, childlike warmth to all out rage had me on the edge of my seat and certainly deserved the standing ovation he received at the end of the show.
So what do I take away, other than the haunting voices of the characters he brought to life, which will no doubt stay with me - and the rest of the audience - for some time to come.
Imagery - creating beautiful images on stage inspired by works of art perhaps?
Lighting - play with this and the way the body looks within it
Sound - how it can be used in a one man show to create texture
Props - simple but effective
Audience talk - a way to do this that is both comfortable for the audienceand relevant to the play
Character - multi-character within one man performance
Next summer I will be workshopping two physical theatre pieces with some direct audience interaction, what I have seen here is great inspiration for what I hope will be a creative and productive development experience.
*working title/ still not decided.