I saw an amazing play last Friday at the Trap Door Theatre, a small black box in Chicago. The title was No Darkness Round My Stone written by Fabrice Melquiot and translated by David Bradby. Apparently Melquiot got started in the French literary world with two children's texts and has written a number of plays aimed at younger audiences. No Darkness Round My Stone, billed as “a comedic and empathetic look at the everyday life of grave robbers,” was not one of those plays.
The set, costumes, and makeup were fantastic. Walking into the theatre, the stage was set with a man slumped in the corner and bodies wrapped in sheets lining the walls. The play began with Juste (later revealed to be a poet who carries a knife, a gun, and a grenade with him at all times “it's the most effective) walking onstage through a small black door. He unwrapped a sheet revealing the body of a pregnant corpse bride, which he then drug across stage and mounted. The man that was sitting in the corner stood up as well as another body hiding under a sheet revealing themselves to be the graverobbing brothers Ivan and Dan. All of the actors similarly appeared from beneath sheets onstage. During the play, Juste repeatedly tries to leave through the door he entered only to find it locked.
The only character to leave the stage was the graverobber's father Louis Bayle, who returned as Lullaby, his drag prostitute alter ego that walks the streets at night in his dead wife's clothing looking to give head.
Whenever a character finished with his or her scene, he or she would either drop to the floor or run against a wall and slump down. Note the people sitting along the walls in the photos above. The effect was dramatic, if a little slapstick, and highlighted a constant reversal from death to life in the play's non-linear timeline. Being an avant garde French play required there to be long scenes with characters standing around saying, “God is dead. God is dead. This is the cemetery.” There was a decent amount of screaming in addition to all the collapsing and people trying to exit the stage by running headfirst into walls. Sure it was over the top, but brilliantly so. Who wants realism in theatre?