As part of the annual Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival, for one night only the Traverse Theatre was given over to a cross-section of award winning European animation, ranging from the truly weird to the oddly transcendent. 70 minutes of Greek, German, Polish and French animated short films awaited the audience at 9:15 in the evening, a time of day when a little illumination goes a long way- even if it is in the form of a two- headed chicken.
Manipulate Festival resists categorisation of its productions. There are many plots to enjoy in Off to the Asylum: a Nick Cave song where a little girl murders her neighbors, cartoon characters eat poo, tensions rise between flatmates, a two-headed chicken sings "Nessun dorma", and a ghostly town is besieged by fiery knights from hell.
Postmodern art resists tidy aesthetic categories such as “good” and “bad”. As a result, the only way to experience Off to the Asylum is with an open mind. The panoply of animation styles ensures each story’s uniqueness while the viewing experience (without intermission) is one of fragmentation rather than totality. Each film describes a condition - war as spectacle, for example - rather than broadcasts a moral message. A film which might make one person laugh might make another cringe with discomfort.
There was an air of hopelessness to the evening, especially present in David O’Reilly’s The External World and Osman Cerfon’s Sticky Ends, where sex, death and explosions were the key plot points. Can we accept a world where the moral poles have collapsed and violence is funny? The Lost Town of Switek, by Polish director Kamil Polak, summed it all up. After witnessing a bizarre sequence of events in which a town is invaded by self-immolating knights on horseback, the protagonist wakes up, floating in a lake full of lilies. He is pulled from the water, and wonders: was it real? Welcome to the Maniplate Festival - reality is subjective, so get used to it.