Sunday, September 28, 2014

Terni Performance Festival Wrap-Up

About one third of the way through my time in Terni, I began to get the sense that I, a foreigner, a gringo from a culturally confused Leone film, had arrived at some kind of crossroads.

It's interesting, what's happening in Europe. There's certainly a wave of anti-EU sentiment, from Germany to Norway and certainly the UK, and this raises several questions about the utopian dreams that the political body once represented. This young, educated, mobile class - you know them - English speaking, experienced, working and moving between states, partnering across races and healing old wounds - may in fact never get the political agency they were promised. Likewise, the various fabrications upholding European cohesion lie exposed by a playful Russia - recently, for example, Hungary's decision to withhold gas supplies to Ukraine.

Not co-incidentally, Hungary has been following a largely traditional line with its cultural offerings of late. Likewise on a cultural level we see smaller festivals like Terni - whose 'satellite' feel in the programming is very much a product of such mobility, entering a fragile period of existential crisis born of an uncertain future. It's by no means the only festival going through this. Everywhere here, there's a crawling sense that these smaller, multi-disciplinary, multi-kulti festivals are no longer at the crest of the wave. As the cultural pull swings back towards tradition, one senses that they are, unfortunately, swimming against the tide.

I'll resist saying more about the context (although there is certainly more to be said - about xenophobia, about fascism, about the turning of blind eyes. About my home state, Australia, leading the way with all of this. Perhaps another day).

Photo: Michela Cinus

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Terni Performance Festival: Zilla!

Along with the mounting body of scientific data on climate change comes the implicit knowledge that the future contains more and more catastrophe. The way these catastrophes are narrated - mostly through media - is already corrupt, and with the pre-requisite that the first world dissociate itself from accountability for these events, it doesn't take a long stretch of the imagination to assume these narratives will become more and more pliable.

Just how we respond to these events is the focus of Zilla!, a part participatory work, part staged poem from writer Andy Field in collaboration with Ira Brand and Chritopher Brett Bailey. The play utilises a floating birds'-eye lens of cities in the world (for me reminiscent of Chris Thorpe's There has Possibly been an Incident, although the likeness is presumably accidental as it was first performed in 2011) zooming through different world cities as though from the perspective of Godzilla himself. One moment, we are in London with its Oxford street brands, the next in Berlin with its issues of gentrification, or perhaps in New Orleans.

By the time catastrophe strikes, we've got a sort of poetic portrait of the daily life of the global citizen. In a device I found fairly artificial, we are asked to put our Lego figures, personally selected from the floor at the beginning of the show, down on a map of the city that has been periodically sketched out by the actors. We do this only to see them callously stomped on by the two actors (Brand and Bailey) wearing giant fluffy animal slippers and to the tune of some pop song I can't remember (EDIT: We Gotta Get Out of this Place by The Animals), in a kind of mimicry of the fragile act of creation and the unfeeling swiftness of its destruction.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Terni Performance Festival: Hate Radio

Genocide can happen, it seems, remarkably quickly. Once you have your triggering event, the dominoes just fall. When race is used as a reason for hate and dehumanisation on a wide scale, all humanity seems to evaporate into so much pink mist.

Of course, the speed is a fiction. A given society can have its violent bed made long before the first shot is fired. The media's key causal relationship with horrific violence is clear and well-documented, which doesn't stop it being a breeding ground for new ethical vacuums, (yes, even in the West), or indeed, instances of genocide occurring.

Hate Radio, a production from the International Institute of Political Murder that has done the rounds in European festivals, documents explicitly this link between propaganda and genocide in one specific instance of recent history - the Rwandan genocide of 1994. This event saw race-based crimes against humanity that exhibit a shocking level of dehumanisation. Rape, murder, torture, and a particularly pathological fixation on, not just killing, but suffering are key narratives of that conflict. To fragile, western ears, it's a barrage of monstrousness that begs belief.

These stories are relayed to us by actors, appearing on screens and speaking through radio headsets allocated to each audience member, in the grueling first 15 minutes of Hate Radio. The dramaturgy here is carefully layered but does not spare us the violence of the stories, women offering themselves as sex slaves only to have their breasts cut off, children having limbs cut off, hiding in underground toilets for days, staying alive in the middle of a pile of massacred corpses. There appears no atrocity which could not occur in this space of madness.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Terni International Performing Arts Festival

On the 19th-23rd of September I will be corresponding from the Terni International Performing Arts Festival in Italy.

Details in English are scarce - so I'll have to leave a lot of my research until arrival.

Click here for the website (Italian)

At this rate I'll soon have more information about Italian theatre than I do about either German or Australian...