'Rubbish' – Theatre Rites
Theatre Rites' latest show 'Rubbish' begins with a huge mound of black bin bags on stage. Three men rummage through the pile in search of scrap metal. Charlotte, who resides in a cave in the bin bag mound, joins them, wearing an oversized yellow protective suit. She sterilises and cleans everything around her. As the four excavators open bags, one by one the discarded things come to life on a table.
A duck with a jug head and body of a hip flask emerges drenched in goo. With tender care, the excavators spruce it up and help it to fly. Leather gloves and a cobbler’s tools emerge from a binned backpack and take shape as an old cobbler, who repairs his own shoe and is joined by his unruly dog made of a box, bottle, tennis balls and mop.
The journey of a right-hand glove to find the left is sweet and touching: a small head attached to the back of a yellow glove creates a figure that walks on two fingers through cityscapes built from suitcases and knick-knacks. In another episode, black bin bags are filled and jointed into a sumo-like puppet which sucks up rubbish indiscriminately. The puppet reluctantly gives up its treasures, which are divided into plastics and cardboard. The audience is invited to put them separately into blue and green bin bags.
Later, Charlotte’s broken table lamp is transformed into a chandelier using lampshades and chains found in the rubbish dump, which together illuminate the bin bag mound. The show ends with a chorus celebrating the excavation of objects.
Each vignette themed with repair and care is enchanting, but the show is dented by lack of narrative that threads them together. The things recovered are brought back to the cave without developing any relationship with the excavators or environment. Objects look more like things from trendy vintage shops than rubbish dump finds. They are aesthetically pleasing but taint the ecological message intended in the show.
Overall 'Rubbish' is a visually accomplished piece, enlivened by its bin bag set and costumes of vintage chic overalls, check shirts, boots and a lace dress combined with quirky helmets, protective suits and oxygen masks. Each of the four performers has a distinctive character, but as puppeteers they also blend well with the puppets. Magic occurs when that happens in front of our eyes.