By Susanna Mulvihill
Trapped in a box car on a freight train bound for Roseville, California, three hobos who are freezing and desperate, explore the concept of freedom in this production by Antwerp’s Noosfeer VZW. The central figure is Quinn (Dries Beugels), son to one of his companions – a slightly touched vagrant by the name of Banjo (Pascal Maetens) – and lover to another, Winifred (Silke Vanhoof) a 17 year old runaway. Directed by Christoffel Hendrickx, written by Dylan Dougherty, and with a live soundtrack provided by Dries Bongaerts on electric and acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica this is an evocative and slowly contemplative piece.
Christoffel Hendrickx, in addition to being a director, is also an installation artist and this is evident in the piece as a whole. The set is a depiction of the inside of the freight train, constructed with plywood, complete with sliding tin door, a lone lamp hanging from a stand, and the soundtrack perfectly subtle in it’s placement and setting, but this feels to have been at the expense of the performance itself. From the start it feels as if the actors suffer from lack of strong direction and could have benefitted from some more comprehensive character development work. There are frequent line fumbles, the actors regularly talking over each other, while they move around the stage without any convincing intention. The relationships are not represented clearly at first, with little or no body language attempted, only becoming apparent when spelled out in the script about half way through. The action does improve, with some touching scenes between Quinn and Winifred, but overall there is a lack of real connection between the actors and their characters, leaving the conclusion unconvincing. However, Bongaerts’ musical accompaniment and heartfelt singing lift the production, providing a gentle echo of the railway behind the action and mood setting songs between scenes. There is real passion and emotion in his voice which perhaps convey more of a sense of entrapment and freedom than the rest of the play.
There are some good ideas here, with happiness, freedom, loss and hope all being touched on. There are some interesting metaphors, with the carriage being at one point almost a coffin, but the emphasis was too heavy on style with not enough on substance. The music however is worth the price of the ticket alone.