Review / Wordless play packs a punch

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Christopher Samuel Carroll performs “Icarus” at The Street Theatre. Photo: Shelly Higgs

“ICARUS” is a wordless, one-man show that tells a powerful story inspired by news reports of people who have stowed away in the landing gear of planes.

It depicts war, displacement and the journey of a refugee, through the powerful lens of human experience.

In an empty performance space, light and sound are major elements in the narrative and design. Performer and creator Christopher Samuel Carroll specialises in physical theatre. While there is no white face or red nose, perfectly executed mime and clowning routines are essential to our understanding of the unfolding story.

Carroll creates a vivid sense of reality in mundane scenes such as feeding a cat and shopping in a supermarket. He also expresses internal, emotional states in a way that is tragic, funny and above all, human. A scene in which he repeatedly tries to leave the safety of the home in which he slowly starves is so brilliantly and darkly comic that the opening night audience laughed out loud.

Consummate sound engineer and designer, Kimmo Vennonen’s soundscape was developed alongside the physical elements of the show. It seamlessly integrates with the action, underpinning and extending the drama, humour and pathos.

Jed Buchanan is an emerging lighting designer with evident sensitivity, skill and precision.

Carroll is an Irish national who made Canberra his home in 2016. “Icarus” runs for a tight 55 minutes. By the end of the show, he is soaked in sweat and his audience deeply feels its vicarious experience of his doomed, young and unnamed “everyman”.

“Icarus” is a world-class show, well deserving of its interstate awards and accolades. It was developed in 2018 in Canberra with support from the ACT government and various key arts organisations.

In his statement in the show’s program, Carroll writes: “The ongoing challenge for the artist is how to communicate something you feel strongly about, without moralising to people, as if you yourself have the answers.”

One could argue that in these times of intense and escalating political polarisation, this challenge applies to us all. “Icarus” rises to the challenge and packs a punch that unites us in shared experience rather than dividing with politics and preaching.


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