Cupola Bobber is a Chicago-based collaborative duo comprising Stephen Fiehn and Tyler B. Myers. Way Out West, the Sea Whispered Me portrays aspects of the sea as a source of leisure and a merciless destroyer.
Visually they are able to convey some of this concept, as the powerful impact of waves crashing on the shore is achieved by yanking the corner of the white tarpaulin upon which the performance takes place, it then flips over to reveal a bright blue underside that illustrates the action. A simple device of amplifying an ordinary fan provides a haunting wind effect.
It is when the show uses words as well as actions and effects that it runs into trouble.It is possible that the duo is trying to disorientate the audience and so make them examine familiar objects from a different angle. But the method they use is so obscure as to generate irritation and, worse, boredom.
A talking mountain lists the various bits and pieces that it has seen slide into the sea. The phrase slide into the sea is then used as a way of invoking memories. It is not a bad idea but the monotone delivery quickly strains patience.
Cupola Bobber tries to establish a connection between the theme of the sea and comedy greats such as Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise. The connection escapes me – comedy at the seaside, in the UK at least, is more associated with saucy postcards than these comedians. It does at least add a degree of variety to the show as a suitcase is revealed to be full of sand from which the duo builds sandcastles that they then demolish by duplicating a dance from Stan and Ollie’s Way Out West.
The event concludes with the duo debating whether or not they are clouds. It may be that this is based on the idea that it is only the way in which the atoms from which everything is made up are arranged that determines identity so we are all clouds as we are all made up of atoms. But the duo take the same approach to words and just seem to arrange them as if they all had identical meaning making it very difficult to follow the line of reasoning.
It is entirely possible that I just didn’t understand, or was too Philistine to appreciate, the show. Mind you I’ve never been confident I understand William Burroughs or Samuel Beckett either but those writers generate thought or an emotional reaction which Cupola Bobber fail to achieve.
I’m afraid that Way Out West, the Sea Whispered Me provoked the worse kind of reaction in me – boredom. I don’t know if it’s art, but I know I don’t like it.