Told by an Idiot: And The Horse You Rode In On
29 Apr 2011
By: Eleanor Sikorski
And The Horse You Rode In On is an obscure pantomime-like collage of stories which do not aim to create any singular narrative but revel in their disparities and their one common denominator – violent revolutionaries. We are taken between different centuries and countries and varying degrees of convincing dramatics. Each story is broken into scenes which are muddled together so that each narrative is unravelled slowly and with a constant edge of confusion.
My first impression of this play is that I have stumbled into the Ministry of Funny Accents and dodgy acting. Oh dear. As it goes on, the play finds more strength – stories emerge and with them an attempt to make us all laugh.
The play is does not intend to attach us emotionally or make us believe anything of what we see. A family runs a shop (that sells everything), the husband is a tired agent provocateur/terrorist who receives messages hidden in birthday cakes and told by parrots; Suicidal French protestants kidnap a Swiss family of acrobats; Louis XIV uses voicemail; a student burns her dog in a Viennese department store in protest (of something, I’m not sure what); bomb survivors talk camply about how they have coped post-trauma and somewhere along the way a cowboy joke appears. It’s all bonkers.
Revolution, violence and Enlightenment by Demonstration (the reasoning behind the burning of the dog in a public place and other shocking acts) are running themes, but the play is not really about these things. The script may follow violent politics but because the attempt to make the audience laugh is so dominant it makes the plot nothing more than a structure for comedy to sit on. This is not a bad thing. This is in fact something which is rightly embraced. There is an abandonment of realism, attachment and any sort of greater message.
It’s not the absurd nature of this sculptural tower of stories but rather this abandonment which leaves me with the word pantomime on my lips – and a frustration with very unfunny comedy.
But I do laugh. At what? The technical comedy. Not the script or what the characters do but how it is all framed. The script being read by actors off stage as the action happened mutely on stage. The use of sound and light to create cinematic jumps and freezes between times and places. Horror movie parodies and slow motion deaths. These are all moments which are not context related but are bubbles of delight.