A path through the performing arts: Ex Ponto 2014

If I live life, really live life, then there is a higher than high chance that I will not come out the same person at the other end. This has implications for my relationships with myself, others, the world and everything in it. The changes will range from subtle right through to those of great magnitude. The way I view things, ie my worldview, will always be under review.

And so to the performing arts. What role do they play in shaping me? And especially a performing arts festival like Ex Ponto, bringing together edgy performances and productions from Slovenia’s near and not-so-near neighbours? Across the week I have engaged with six performances, all quite different. And in a range of theatres – from the National Drama Theatre in the city centre to theatres around the perimeter of town. I’m glad I had a day in-between each performance to process the content. Mind you, each of those days included a half day of Slovene language lessons. And sometimes excursions out of town. And a CiM (Choice in Motion) workshop. So plenty to process:)  Come, journey with me…

Slovenian National Theatre
Slovenian National Theatre
Spanski Borci Cultural Centre
Spanski Borci Cultural Centre

Schweik in the Second World War (Macedonian production)

Schweik is a prototype of silent but strong and successful resistance against single-mindedness and imperialistic warfare. Brecht’s Schweik also has quite a few tricks up his sleeves to deceive the occupiers, unfolding a sarcastic story about all great wars, heroic deeds, and victories that, ultimately, lead to a final defeat. Brecht’s Schweik adapts to new circumstances of the Great War, trying to reveal the vicious circle of history, but unsuccessfully. The director Kočevski takes the story a step further, opening the Pandora’s box of Macedonian as well as other Balkan and European conflicts. (from Festival notes)

Loved: Brecht-style performance. the staging, and Foltin’s percussion rhythms throughout (still tapping!!)

  • What is our own role in contemporary propaganda? Do we succumb to naivety and contentment as our respective countries and powers try to shape us?

Pavane for Antigone (Slovenian production)

Pavane for Antigone is a kaleidoscope of intimate artistic confessions, a journey expressing the longing of modern man for peace with one’s self and the world, for the ending of social discord and perpetual conflict that have all but exhausted humanity. The performance commemorates the tragedy of the First World War at the 100th anniversary of its beginning. In the apocalyptical echoing of sonorous compositions, passionate saxophone passages intertwine with poetical exclamations, visual abstractions, shifting images and technological sculptures. Together, they are illuminated by gentle flashes of lights that reveal an entrancing and highly unusual landscape. (from Festival notes)

And a kaleidoscope it was indeed – a production from the Sonorous Arts Centre – using sound in the full sense of the word for understanding reality. A beautifully crafted performance fusing light, movement and sound. Loved it.

(voice of the narrator)

“…in the black of the earth

in the commotion of the ascent

in the embrace and in the exertion

in darkness

I still have my hands, to forage for bread

I rise once again from the abyss

that opened under my shadow

I grasp at the rocks and the slime-covered roots

unveiled by the hollowness of the earth

I grasp and I raise myself whole, I overflow and revolve

leaving behind me, releasing

the scent of decay and within it, life.”

  • To what are we shackled? What price do we pay for conformity to society’s artificial expectations?
Sonorous Arts Centre, Vodnik Manor
Sonorous Arts Centre, Vodnik Manor

Invisible #2: Fu (Bulgarian production)

Invisible #2 is a sincere attempt to understand the Chinese culture in the midst of modern Bulgaria. It aims to uncover whether the Chinese are comfortable in their new social environment, expose their everyday troubles in how the Bulgarian majority treats them, and determine whether there is a bridge connecting life and mindset of Southeast Europe and China. Throughout the performance, four actors explore the vast canon of Chinese mythology: understanding life in accordance with the Taoist philosophical tradition, which derives from equilibrium and the natural order of things, while searching for means of communication with the Chinese minority in Bulgaria. Invisible #2 walks a mile in their shoes and sees through the eyes of the person who lives right next to us, yet still goes unnoticed. (from Festival notes)

Loved the storytelling with its roots in Chinese mythology. So powerful.

  • How do labels like “minority” develop? What disempowers? What empowers? Will there ever be a point when we don’t think of people as “minority” but everyone as one? To what extent do labels dictate behaviours?
Dance Theatre Ljubljana
Dance Theatre Ljubljana

 Tobelia ( Slovenian/Bulgarian/Macedonian co-production)

What happens when three women – mother, sister and wife – love the same man too deeply? Ljubomir Đurković, the eminent and one of the best modern Montenegrin writers, depicts the depression of three women after the death of their man – son, brother and a husband. In their sadness they are closed in a small room, which makes them uncomfortable and paralyses them, and on the other hand it significantly defines and preserves them at the same time. Đurković connected the modern story about a family in a small apartment of a house building to the old Montenegro Albanian custom called tobelijas – girls from families without male descendants that vowed to remain innocent and bear the role of the non-existent son, male heir and the head of the family. (from Festival notes)

Loved the whole production, the blackness

  • What defines me as a human being? To what extent is my identity tied to the identity of another/others? What societal and cultural customs bind me in this game of life?

Tant’amati (Belgian production)

A dance performance about a man and a woman who have been living together for a long time, about the unique relationship between two bodies known to each other in space which is forcibly closing them in. Have they ceased loving each other without even knowing it? Their co-existence is happening in a cramped little apartment – without history, between thousands of moments that are almost identical to each other. They thread through life as if it’s happening outside of them, and on their faces we perceive only ignorance and inexpression. Ironic and sweet-sour performance consists of passages where even the exchange of words is determined by a pre-written script of monotonous everyday life. (from Festival notes)

Loved the choreography, the symmetry and the asymmetry, the movement

It made me think of this: “Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and the storm within.” ~ Frederick Buechner

Whether there are two people in the same apartment in a dying relationship, two people in separate apartments in a dying relationship, or two people moving through their own pain at different points and in different places, is neither here nor there…what matters is:

  • How do you find the courage to look steadily and bravely into what is causing you or others pain? What would new ways of living look like? Can dying relationships ever recover? Can the cure for pain be in the pain?

Tant’amati (Trailer 2013) de Erika Zueneli et Sébastien Jacobs from Zueneli/Renouf on Vimeo.

 

One flew over the Kosovo Theatre (Kosovo production)

The performance is a political satire about the new-born state, about the new Kosovo that is exhausted and devastated by war, poverty, corruption and never ending protection by international missions. The state of Kosovo instantly searches for its own path and the bridges with its focus into the future. It constantly provocatively refreshes the relationship between art and politics, especially in the sensitive socio-political moments. The performance shows the preparation of a theatre performance that will mark the independence of Kosovo and demystifies the influence of politics in art and raises its voice against the extreme political ideas. It expresses a subversive comic relation to the demands of politicians to create the drama, which should be the part of government glorification and so called national interest. (from Festival notes)

Loved the humour, characterisation, and the pre and post performance pieces of memorabilia related to the story. A very clever piece of theatre. Still trying to figure out the reality from the theatrical licence and send-ups.

  • Is there a role for politics in art? Should art serve politics? Is it important for art to be free of any form of constraint?
Sentjakob Theatre
Sentjakob Theatre
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