Title and Deed is my first Will Eno play and surely won't be my last. I enjoyed the dreamy language and mysterious pondering of a man desperate for connection.
Title and Deed is a 70 minute monologue by a character called Man. He enters a theater and begins speaking about his travels from far away and what it is like for him to be here in this new, foreign place. Where he's from, or where he is even at as he speaks to us, is a bit of a mystery.
Starring Irish actor Conor Lovett and directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett (produced in association with Gare St Lazare Players Ireland) it is hard not to think about Irish literature and theater when watching Title and Deed. From the poetry of the language to the raconteur style of the piece (and his sort of hobo-vagabond-Godot like appearance), it seems to lend itself to an Irish gloss. Though I wondered if there was not an Irish accent being employed would the play have a different feeling? I kept resisting the assumption that this was in fact an Irish traveler talking about Ireland. I'm not sure why I built up such resistance. Perhaps it is my natural skepticism or the Eno's avoidance of identifying the country or place that the Man was talking about.
I got it into my mind that this traveler could have been from any country or any planet for that matter. I wanted this to remain abstract and not easily be plunked down into the concrete. Placing it in a real country would cloud the lyricism with history and context. For once, I quite enjoyed being suspended in a context-less world. And really it had nothing to do with the place. The place was irrelevant. This piece is about the culture-shock, homesickness and ennui of disconnection.
Anyone who travels or has spent time far from home (or feels lost in the world in which they are existing) could probably relate to this traveler and his story. Sometimes when jet lag and cultural confusion catch up with me (what language are we speaking here, wait was that "thank you" in the language from the last country, If It's Tuesday, It Must be Belgium, right?), I think that just because we can cross the globe so quickly maybe sometimes we shouldn't. The emotional whiplash that comes with global travel in this day and age is often overlooked until you are crying in your hotel room convinced you have rabies from a street cat who attacked you while you were eating dinner. Just me? (It's not just me. Travel often leads to tears. Daniel Kitson does a wonderful comedy bit about the loneliness of business travelers in hotels. Suggesting that the do not disturb signs on hotel room should say "on the one side please do not disturb I am wanking and then I will be crying, and on the other side of that please clean the spunk off my bed then dry the tears on my face then hold me while I sleep, I am so alone.")
Anyway, in Title and Deed, Man's ongoing speeches seemed to be less about what he was saying and more about using his voice to talk through that emotional whiplash. He was like a child trying to soothe himself with the last thing still familiar to him--his own voice. Even when he seemed to be lying to himself or to us, just the sound of his own voice gave him a connection to a place or a world that he longed for. He was full of bold statements and then retractions. He was an unreliable narrator. But he was not speaking to inform us, instead merely trying to connect, relate, settle himself, and find a sense of home. The words I kept coming back to as I watched this were "solace" and "comfort." He was desperate for them.
This desperation spills out as he tries to find common ground with the audience or clutch a touch of the familiar. His search was palpably painful. This traveler seems to have become uprooted and has not been able to plant himself again. Drifting has its romantic allure until you realize what you have to sacrifice to achieve that weightless.
I have a friend who moved abroad. After a year she had become acclimated to the heat and weather and made a life for herself in a wholly new culture. But I could not help but feel there was still a massive disconnection between this new place and who she was. She would have to shed her American identity to acclimate to the cultural traditions of where she was living. To gain true comfort in her new world, she would have to give up something fundamentally a part of her old identity. It's rather soul-shattering when you think about leaving those pieces of yourself that connect you to your family, friends, and personal history to find acceptance, comfort or home in a new place. Or maybe liberating for a different soul.
At one point in Title and Deed, Man's girlfriend says to him at a busy shopping place, "Don't get lost for too long." A lesson he seems to have learned already.