Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 1 - Wandering Hanger Festival

The festival began with a mid-afternoon opening ceremony, and went on to some performances in the afternoon.

If I could, I would describe the opening ceremony, and my experience of delight, warmth, and confusion as I stepped onto the toy tram, in hand an old suitcase emblazoned with my name in Cyrillic lettering, being announced to drum fanfare and stepping out into a surprisingly large swarm of local press in a carefully orchestrated spectacle that still had something beautifully earnest about it.

People Spoke
Nova Linia Hardware Warehouse

Nova Linia is a hardware warehouse in Ukraine (the Australian equivalent is Bunnings). It was the venue chosen to host my performance, which opened the festival.
It was an incredible experience to perform in this place, and the irony of performing a political work in an icon of capitalism’s new frontier was perhaps funny only to me. I wore a t-shirt emblazoned with a defence of protest, and slowly made my way through the work.

How was it received? I honestly don’t know - which is maybe a good thing. Once again I was pleased with the conversation afterwards, a complex one about the usefulness of political action.

Photo - Pavla Berezuka

Sports Hall 
Youth Theatre Teatrali, Tbilisi

In 2004, a sport hall in North Ossetia was hosting the first day of the school year when it was rudely interrupted by separatist rebels making a violent argument for independence.

It’s difficult to describe the disasterous carnage of about 200 people, mostly children, nor the banality interchanged with remarkableness of the situation (as the program explains, one child had stayed home from school – when he heard about the attack, he remarkably went in to class to be with his classmates).

To say this is difficult material for the Georgian theatre, who’s youngest member is twelve years old, is probably an understatement depending on if you believe that children should be protected from engaging such trauma. I don’t, but I also think it’s very difficult to make an authentic exploration in this scenario – possibilities tend to be closed off, and one reading strongly favoured. In other words, the results are usually quite didactic and conservative.

To their credit, the young ensemble do a great job of representing the situation as more than the work of pure evil. The play begins in the school and tracks the background lives of some of the children and, surprisingly, the terrorists, amid a swathe of metaphors of the destruction of knowledge (including a painful scene in which one of the children has a book painstakingly taken from her, containing a list of the children’s names). Is it possible there is no more powerful a metaphor than the destruction of knowledge to illustrate the cost of violence?

Photo - Pavla Berezuka

Amateurism, which the festival proudly wears as its badge, was present here at its most stark and authentic. The effect of pure amateurism a kind of super-authenticity, sort of like staring directly at the sun. In this case, the effect is an awkward friction – kind of a ‘more real than real’ effect, accentuated by its location in an actual school stadium. The trauma of the event represented makes this all the more difficult to look at, compounding, with the other elements, into a concoction too intolerable to witness. That’s not at all to discount it, just that it was all so close to home that it almost came full circle, returning to inauthentic.

An interesting element was that the play was in Georgian, a language that barely anyone in the audience understood. As a result, events took on a kind of accidental poetry, heightened by the actors’ attempts to cross an uncrossable divide.

The tension gives way to a certain strangeness in an ending - a human pyramid, complete with our young narrator at apex, proudly holding aloft a Christian cross. I can only guess at what is being said here and I must say, under the circumstances, it was a slightly worrying conclusion to an otherwise noble effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment