Hello, cruel world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 June, 1993, 12:00am

ON a hot, sticky night at the Old Mental Hospital in Western the first production of a company called Plastic Bags took place.

It was a fascinating piece of elliptical theatre entitled Fish Can Fly And So Can Reindeer; and it was performed by Angie Alderman as Holly, a young woman whose world of fantasy was often confused with reality. The audience followed the action, literally, from one room to another.

The first scene was played in a room that looked as though it were somebody's flat, and the audience sat on the carpet.

Between two pillars stood what appeared to be an altar - religious images cropped up frequently. The ''altar'' cloth was raised to reveal Holly, like a child, hiding under a table. she was playing with a colourful cardboard box, and repeatedly muttering, ''Fourteen hundred and ninety two: Columbus sailed the ocean . . .'' As a child, Holly knew for certain that reindeer could fly at Christmas, and that one of them had a shiny nose. Was this very different from the adult discovery that some reindeer glowed from radioactive fall-out? One of the play's themes was expressed in Holly's ever-growing belief that ''everything's connected''.

A link between the past and the present was hinted at in a prayer which, like Christopher Robin's, began with ''God bless Mummy'' but ended with a plea to save the starving in Africa, as well as the reindeer.

In a second room, a large piece of raw meat, of a size usually seen in a butcher's shop rather than in a domestic kitchen, was hanging from a hook. On taking the meat down, cuddling it and dancing with it, Miss Alderman evoked an assortment of biblical and sensual images. There was also a suggestion, perhaps, of trying to make amends on behalf of the human race for its slaughter of and cruelty to animals.

Later, on a huge sheet of paper, Holly fiercely painted a life-sized representation of her boyfriend, with whom she had had a row over the question of having their cat neutered. Holly's reaction was to cut the genitals from the painting and snip them topieces with scissors.

Then, a few strips of tape across the gaping hole sufficed to show how inadequate we are at repairing serious damage to each other.

Other startling images abounded: of how badly we behave to our fellow beings, as well as to other creatures. Alderman's thoroughly believable performance, full of integrity, was absolutely vital to make this a powerful, thought-provoking piece.

Lindsey McAlister, who is brilliant at drawing out the best in performers of limited experience, directed the play with great sensitivity and assurance.