Thursday, 16 June 2016

How Keanu Reeves Saved The World @ The Arches

Get slack and see the truth

I have a serious art-crush on Amanda Monfrooe. Not only does she share my fascination with the beautiful slacker who is often accused of underacting, she even parlays this obsession into a playful and heavy lecture on the flux of meaning in the post-modern universe. She might not avoid the easy jokes - yes, a block of wood does stand in for Keanu – but she refuses to dumb down her essential message. Ironically, this makes it tough going as part as Arches Live – a festival that has settled into a programme of new, tentative theatre – and a rare example of a show that I felt could have been spread more easily over a longer span.

Monfrooe's thesis is that the films of Keanu represent a consistent philosophy, that insist on a rejection of consumerist hegemony. The Matrix's blatant dualism between appearance and reality is the core text: Monfrooe goes onto identify the theme in his earlier works, and in his friendship with the more respected, probably because he is dead, River Phoenix.

The cod-academic rigour, not without its own humour, does drop back, with Monfrooe revealing her working process in a series of sketches, ably supported by a variety of masks (including Keanu's beautiful face) and performer Lottie Maslin-Prothero. The lectures are recited to the subtle drumming of Glynn Forrest, dragging the show out of the classroom and enthusing the speeches with a jazz beat poetry.

If the structure is uneven – the truth behind Keanu is revealed in something close to a rant, and a few scenes wander around unrelated ideas – How Keanu Reeves Saved The World is quite unlike anything else on the stage. Passionate, intelligent, it draws equally from puppetry and academia, takes a much maligned celebrity and battles to forge meaning in a society that is increasingly losing its faith and purpose.

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