photo: Eamonn McGoldrick
It begins casually, house lights still up: we're the audience in a New Orleans bar while a singer and a guitarist perform a low-key set. Soon, however, the deceptively loose beginning gives way to a dynamic, thematically stimulating piece which throws a current-day Yankee real estate developer (who's come to demolish the bar) into conflict with the ways of the Old South. "It's like they're still fighting the Civil War down here" she says in a phone call home, as the people around her morph into the author of, and characters from, Gone With The Wind. The narrative structure of the piece (part of the Under The Radar Festival at The Public) is adventurous but purposeful - before long we're also watching a current-day Hollywood producer enlist an African-American film director (played by a white actor) to helm and star in an unfaithful, politically correct remake of the movie. Although overlong, and not always smoothly staged, Architecting is captivating mostly because it's uncomfortable - its high-minded ruminations on how we construct history don't go down easy when they play out in scenes such as the one (adapted from the novel) where Scarlett O'Hara defends a slave from the verbal abuse of a Yankee woman. If such scenes aim to show us nuance and contradiction, or the "truth of the times", they backfired for me. To use Gone With The Wind for its place in the American consciousness is one thing, but to invest in it as truth is another.