Mary Brennan – Cain’s hat

The Herald Wednesday – 2002-08-21

What? Performance Where? St Stephens Rating? *****

CHINVAT, Artus’s other show currently running at Theatre Workshop, ended with the treasuring message: “The tower collapsed but the stones are unharmed.” In Cain’s Hat, however, the stones – as in the tablets of the Ten Commandments – are in shards. Cracked apart, not just by the lawbreakers but also by the law-makers: but, then, it’s not easy to tell one from the other. They look, dress, behave, the same. The only clue is in the headgear: he who wears the hat has the power. Anyone who’s seen Chinvat will know already this Hungarian company create memorable stage pictures. They meld movement with meticulously-constructed artifacts: the resulting images reflect on our ability to judge truths about art, moral codes, our own behaviour and place in the scheme of things. In Cain’s Hat they play around with scales and balances, biblical references, and notions of facelessness, masked identities, and betrayal. Two men meet, as if agreeing a done deal: hands thump emphatically into palms, but only one walks away. Upstage, a pile of rubble hints at centuries of broken commandments. Poles are pushed into it, like nails into a coffin. Men balance precariously on them, even enter into headto-head conflict, their acts of brinkmanship a reminder of how “might” can so easily be assumed as “right”. A seesaw turns into a rudimentary emblem of justice, the balance tipped by how much drink is in a cup. The hat goes around … and rage, self interest, ignorance is allowed to rig the scales. Artus are an intelligent, inventive company. Possessed of great physical panache, underpinned by a poetic longing to make us see, think about, and feel the forces that work for and against our happiness and integrity. They deserve your attention.