- Cargo Sofia: A Bulgarian Truck Ride through Dublin
I walk east on the north side of the Quays. On my right the River Liffey pushes its notoriously filthy contents into the sea. I pass a lap-dancing club, then Marlborough Street—site of the Abbey Theatre—and finally the Custom House. One of Dublin’s 18th-century colonial stalwarts, the Custom House more recently provides shelter for drug dealers on its steps. But at just 6:30 pm on Friday 4 May 2007—when the sun won’t go down for a few hours—I’m too early for any shady characters. I keep walking along Custom House Quay and into the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). The IFSC embodies the New Ireland: where a collection of run-down derelict buildings and crowded council houses used to be, there are gaudy new high-rise apartment buildings—which appear to grow up out of the surrounding water—enclosing a group of commercial buildings housing major financial corporations, a few hotels, and some so-so restaurants (“bistros”; “cafés”; “wine bars”; and even a real, live “dance club”).
The IFSC and the greater “Docklands” area that lead the Liffey through Dublin Port, the ferry terminal, Dublin Bay, and out to sea is the site of a theatre and performance mini-festival of site-specific work called “We Are Here 2.0.” I’m here anyway, in front of the George’s Dock arch, looking for my contact. I’ve been told by the Project Arts Centre box office (a producer of the festival) to wait for instructions. I notice almost immediately a not-so mysterious clue: near the arch a woman sits with a large, clearly marked sign reading “Cargo Sofia.” So much for site-specific intrigue. I collect my ticket and spot my companion standing on the outskirts of the “funky-glasses crowd”—the term we apply [End Page 162] to the Dublin set of intellectuals and artgoers who frequent cultural venues around the city. To our right, parked against the large factory-like restored brick-and-glass building called the CHQ (for “Custom House Quay”—the resident stylish “venue” of the IFSC) stands a large white truck. On any other evening the truck would fail to arouse interest—it would undoubtedly be there to unload cases of designer vodka for a party in one of CHQ’s picture-window vaults—but from the two sets of steps that drop from the container to the sidewalk it is clear there isn’t any “cargo” in the truck. Instead, there are rows of seats. For audiences. An entirely different kind of cargo.
We are told to board the truck. A nice, smallish man who doesn’t seem to speak a lot of English rips my ticket and tells me to take a pair of earphones. He doesn’t appear to be an “actor”; he’s not “on.” He isn’t reacting to audience members as they climb into the truck, and his hands are not an actor’s hands—they are rough and worn from hard work. I’m intrigued—I wonder if he is a “real” truck driver. I step up into the truck, the inside of which has been converted to a wide but shallow audience configuration. I take a seat and put on my earphones. I’m still wondering if the guy is an actor. Other audience members ask each other questions about the performance: where are we going, who’s driving, are we supposed to be human cargo—you can’t fool the funky-glasses crowd. The ticket taker and his colleagues seem rushed. They close the two doors on the long back end of the truck and in the immediate darkness I feel my heart drop. It suddenly occurs to me that I’m stuck in a truck. The lights come on, they tell us to put on our seat belts—a woman is translating for the ticket takers (there are two of them). They joke with her that she has to drive—then they leave. I start to sweat—I am prone to claustrophobia, it’s true, but I didn’t think it...