Dalton Day. Plays Inverse Press, $12.95 paperback (88p) ISBN: 9780991418350
Exit, Pursued is a complex and ambitious collection of 41 one-act plays in verse, most of which centre around the ever-shifting perspectives of characters, Me and You. Dalton Day, with light-hearted whimsy and a contrasting burden of retrospect and sadness, uses Me and You as a means to deconstruct the very essence of personal identity.
In the reading it's hard to decipher whether the author wrote these plays as performance pieces, or if the scripts are a conduit for poetic expression in and of themselves. After all, 16 of these nuggets of poetry contain no dialogue whatsoever. To further complicate the question of performance, the audience in one of the plays must systematically approach a dialogue engraved oak tree and read the next line out loud before returning to their seat. In fact, the audience is a character of almost equal load-bearing significance as the ubiquitous Me and You. And this is where it gets interesting. A little more is required of the reader here, a retraining if you will, a process of detaching oneself from a longstanding concept of what words like, me, you, us and them actually mean, to the point where the reader's own identity is deliberately taken apart by the author.
Each of the collection's installments begins in humorous fashion, with lengthy, descriptive and increasingly absurd titles. The first play has almost as many words in its title as its dialogue does in total. It is this somewhat fanciful approach that adds a certain subtlety to Day's melancholy, and a depth of poignancy to the many segues into the larger questions which concern themselves with death, loneliness, an overriding uncertainty and an anxious desire for direction.
The collection, as a written piece of poetry, could be dipped in and out of for amusement and good humour. Read as a whole, however, the book strikes a far longer-lasting chord. The same could be said in terms of performance. If the plays were performed, one after the other as a collective piece, Exit, Pursued—in the right hands—could be a truly unique, thought-provoking and original piece of performance art. (November 2016)
Purchase Exit, Pursued HERE.
Reviewer bio: Matthew J. Hall is a UK writer based in Bristol. His poetry chapbook Pigeons and Peace Doves is available through Blood Pudding Press. His poetry collection, The Human Condition is a Terminal Illness, is forthcoming through Bareback Press. He reviews small press books at www.screamingwithbrevity.com