Bending, twisting, mourning, unpacking, drowning, (un)building, holding on, close together – that is how we are moving this November.
With the carnivalesque madness of Bacchae- Prelude to a Purge, hybrid wave expansion of Data Ocean Theatre/Tragedy and the Goddexxes, and crucial physical labor of MIKE, the opening weekend gave a rise to incredibly important, intelligent and intuitive performances.
Marlene Monteiro Freitas’ Bacchae- Prelude to a Purge announced this year festival with the intense, surreal staging of the Euripides’ play. Its rich and rhizomatic volume repeatedly references to Dionysian ceremonies fueled with irrationality and absurd, and a passionate embrace of grotesk and a bursting desire for a freedom and a pleasure of being. Somewhere in the tension between elaborate and complex stage solutions and the precise, eloquent details resides the powerful encounter between classical and contemporary, abstract and grounded, institutional and personal, anthropomorphic and what is not.
Data Ocean Theatre/Tragedy and the Goddexxes by Vincent Roumagnac, shares the ambition towards a macro-narrative and a rhizomatic multiplicity of micro-encounters and net of poetic instances over time and space. Again, it is exactly these details that act not only as the pillars of dramaturgy and holders of the narrative structure, but these are also check-in points for the audience, a moment of silent, soothing acknowledgement of our collective being.
A soaked headkerchief in performative installation of Data Ocean Theatre/Tragedy and the Goddexxes, or metamorphic moment between pain and pleasure in performers’ mimic in Bacchae- Prelude for a Purge, or a graceful way of handling a carton box in MIKE, details are connecting tissues and delicate threads of connection, understanding, and mutual care.
MIKE by Dana Michel, continues to deeper dig into the obvious and reveal phenomena that that been already suggested by the preceding two performances. Three hours of honest and transparent play brings forward the crucial aspects of work as such; work as a physical and emotional engagement, work as a very basic precondition for the art process. Bringing into question the rigidness and intolerant nature of the work cultures, MIKE advocates the possibility to do differently, a space to be different, yet safe, together. In the open-space constellation of the piece, watching and being watched intensifies the social moment and, significantly, makes the work visible in that same social milieu.
In all of three pieces, we encounter aliveness and storytelling achieved not only with a human performer, but also by the most various stage objects (instrument and microphone stands, racks, carpets), technical and backstage equipment (reflectors, stage construction parts), or everyday items (coffeemaker, chair, blanket, et cetera).
Within a re-discovery of a site-specificity of a black box, one witnesses the capacity to create highly affective environments backed up with a genuine curiosity and a factor of surprise.
Additionally, specific qualities of each peace, such as, among other things, duration and routine (MIKE), gradation and repetition (Bacchae – Prelude to a Purge), or intermediality and interactivity (Data Ocean Theatre) hold the space for intimacy and imagination to develop over time. This state of awakeness and emotional bonding happens with spectator- participant who is provoked and comforted at the same time, navigating together streams of awkwardness, difference, mourning, care, humor, and much, much more.
The contours of artistic form and concrete narrative references (“big stories”: Euripides’ Bacchae, Greek tragedy, climate crisis, et cetera) are expanded and worked “from inside”, accommodating multidirectional and unexpected interventions that highlight the contemporary context and postmodern momentum embedded in creation(s).
Ongoing negotiation and compassionate listening amongst performers, to their own selves, or with audience, allow extreme emotional states, radical ways of doing, and knowing the world, to unfold and coexistent in the festival experience. Moreover, the changing, repetitive states of sensuous, logical and spatial playfulness, with halt and suspense, amplify trust and transparency as qualities of the performative encounter to cherish and celebrate.
The moving, touching embodiment of care and trust arrives in its fullness with Save the Last Dance for Me, by Alessandro Sciarroni. In the contemporary reenactment of an almost-forgotten folk dance from Italy, we see two men holding and carrying each other though the jaw-dropping spinning dance moves. Traditional men-only couple dance comes in its revived form to speak about suspension of inhibiting social norms and restrictions to freedom, in the hear-warming spirit of unconditional trust and love for another human being. Save the Last Dance for Me resonates with the power of details as anchors in the performance: dancers’ (Gianmaria Borzillo, Giovanfrancesco Giannini) smile, for instance, works as energy release and point of connection with each other, and the spectators. The contextual twist and the temporal stretch over a century, turns bodies into precious archives, powerful amplifiers of forgotten voices, containers of memory and resistance.
In Poet in my- My life as Fabou, Ella Skoikka pulls us gently into her hypnotising universe of poetry, dance and music. The shape-shifting appearances and uncanny forms emerge and fade away in the sticky melody of loss, life, joy and sadness.
The atmospheric black-box stage with an immersive interplay of fabric, light and voice, accommodates bodies real and imaginary, flesh-like and ghost-like, dancing and singing in sweet unknowing, day-dreaming and despair. The show follows up on the contradictory sentiments, present and entangled in the state of being alive. Its beauty sources from the sensuous enmeshment into tragic, bright, loving, soft, unexpected, fatal, mysterious, and an unreserved exposure towards what is yet to happen.
We keep on moving with it as it comes, together.
Nina Vurdelja is a performance researcher and cultural worker active across disciplines and geographies, based in Finland. Her interests reside around more-than-human sensuous encounters and ecologies of being together. She is a Phd Candidate at Doctoral school for Communication, Media and Performing Arts at Tampere University, dwelling in meeting spaces between culture, art, and philosophy.
Cover photo: Kerstin Schroth
Pictures in the text:
Marlene Monteiro Freitas: Bacchae – prelude to a purge. Photo: Laurent Philippe
Vincent Roumagnac: Data Ocean Theatre/Tragedy and the Goddexxes. Photo: V. Roumagnac
Dana Michel: MIKE. Photo: Carla Schleiffer
Alessandro Sciarroni: Save the Last Dance for Me. Photo: Raoul Gilibert
Ella Skoikka: Poet in my – My life as Fabou. Photo: Eva-Liisa Orupold