Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Year of the Horse" - February 2009

Tron Theatre Company, Burnt Goods and Actor/Performer Tam Dean Burn have put together what is effectively an exhibition of the work of illustrator-turned-political cartoonist "Harry Horse". To accompany the fifty two cartoons published in the Sunday Herald, Horse supplied short pieces of text, and these are 'performed' by Burn in front of large projected images of the work. But make no mistake, Burn has ensured that Horse is very much the star of the show - I'm just not sure that it's the better for it.

While Horse's work clearly has considerable artistic merit, I'm afraid I found much of the political content disappointingly blunt. It probably doesn't help seeing cartoons that were published weekly in such a condensed format as the topics and targets quickly begin to feel repetitive. And while in some cases the accompanying text provides context, much of the topicality is diminished by the three years that have passed since publication - it feels a bit like watching old episodes of "Drop the Dead Donkey". But there are plenty of moments of incisiveness - a stinging analysis of David Cameron and a series focussing on environmental issues in particular.

The show is clearly one Burn is passionate about, and in the programme notes he makes a case for the recognition of Horse, but by confining itself to using Horse's text we never quite get a sense of enthusiasm for the work that could carry the audience with it. Burn clearly has the potential to perform a Steve Irwin or David Bellamy type role where he could make his own love of the work contagious and it's to the detriment of the piece that Burn isolates himself from the material. I desperately wanted to hear why each of the works had an impact on Burn, and what he took from them.

And rightly or wrongly, it's difficult for me to isolate Horse's work from the circumstances of his death - particularly given the sense of moral authority inherent in much of the political comment.

"Year of the Horse" is a creative and elegant tribute to Horse but lacks the effervescence required to fully engage a wider audience. The glimpses we get of the charismatic Burn are too restrained and while the intention of focusing attention on Horse is admirable, a little more of Burn would have been to the benefit of both - and the audience.

Year of the Horse runs at the Tron until Saturday 28th February with a 9pm start time