Robin Deacon, Prototypes

Review in Issue 21-3 | Autumn 2009

Railway modelling and autobiographical performance might not have the most obvious of overlaps yet, in Prototypes, Robin Deacon demonstrates a competent ability to highlight a few. A touching interplay of longing for the past, recreations of earlier life and ‘ostensible pedantry’ are just a start; by expanding on these with the on-stage support of his father, Deacon creates a piece of work that touches on much bigger issues about our relationship to personal history.

Using childhood memories of trainspotting through the windows of a flat in Southall, and his adult yearning for this time in which nothing happened, Deacon takes us on a journey exploring the common desire for miniaturising our lives into manageable chunks. Along the way we are treated to video interviews with railway modellers and clips from the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man.

At times, the laughter of the audience at the overly technical enthusiasm of those interviewed feels unsettlingly like that of the playground bully, but as the performance progresses and Deacon’s earnest engagement with the subject matter is revealed, the audience themselves become one of the group. We too learn to appreciate the need for accurate modelling – in this case painting the skin of a figure representing Deacon brown – and, through clever mixing of video recordings taken through the flat window and a real-time feed of the model trains onstage, we too understand the satisfaction to be had from seeing trains run on schedule.

Most touching of all though is the genuine warmth between Deacon and his father – playful banter and xylophone accompaniment to a paternally penned poem about train scrap bring the piece to a heart-warming conclusion.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-3
p. 29