Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Review of How a Man Crumbled at the Mimetic Festival
Ginger Hibiscus | Review of How a Man Crumbled at the Mimetic Festival
Ginger Hibiscus | Review of How a Man Crumbled at the Mimetic Festival
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04 Dec REVIEW: How a Man Crumbled at the Mimetic Festival

Welcome to the fascinatingly absurd mind of Russian poet, Daniil Kharms.

Staged to take the form of a stream of consciousness, the How a Man Crumbled brilliantly lifts the lid on the mind, putting the occurrence of obtrusive thoughts and wandering strands of attention centre stage. Through split-scene action and clever spotlighting, it depicts the mind of someone experiencing simultaneous thoughts as they compete for attention, flitting from idea to idea, coming forwards and drifting back, wandering in and out of the story before being interrupted and shoved away by something more interesting.

The deliberate absurdity of the piece is celebrated through excellent costume and design, which takes things we believe about the world – gravity, for example – and quite literally turns it on its head. Hair stands on end, people talk without voices and a man quite literally crumbles in front of our eyes.

Highly stylised, How a Man Crumbled tells the story of the, “The Old Woman,” a novella written by Kharms in 1939 that fits, quite snugly, in the absurdist genre. As you might imagine, it’s so bizarre that it’s virtually impossible to explain, but the crux appears to be the arrival, and subsequent death of an old woman carrying a clock with no hands. Her death is treated as a selfish and inconvenient act by the protagonist, who sets about determining how to dispose of her body, helped and hindered by a train, a seductive young woman and a suitcase. Throw in some slapstick, senseless violence and a cucumber, and you’re still miles from being able to appreciate the nightmareish preposterousness of it all.

With heavy influences of physical theatre and acrobatics, it’s an incredibly strong production. But it’s an incredibly strong production of a story – a concept – that I just don’t enjoy very much. Don’t get me wrong; I like to be challenged when I go to the theatre. But I like to have a show engage me, to provoke me to hypothesise, make me think about the ideas, and why they’re being presented in the way they are. But during How a Man Crumbled I spent probably 90% of the time wandering what the heck is going on? rather than playing out any moral, philosophical or political ideas. Of course it explores consciousness, but not in the kind of way that challenges or counter-challenges, and when a show doesn’t hit me on any of those levels, I really want it to either make me howl with laughter, or jump up and dance in the aisle. But again, it did neither.

How a Man Crumbled is a phenomenally interesting dramatic construction. The depth of its’ exploration of human consciousness – and subconsciousness – is unparalleled, and is presented forcefully on stage, the many strands of attention weaving between eachother, becoming incurably knotted. Yet it remains that for all I got out of it, there was so much more I didn’t understand. In short, I loved the how. I didn’t love the what.

For more on How a Man Crumbled from Cloud Theatre:
For more on Mimetic Festival:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here