Jeeez maaan, when it rains it fuckin pours, looks like, huh?
Java’s expressing himself on the couple of theatre experiences over the past two days, as well as all the recent posts we’ve put out there on similar events. Kumbi Kathawa on Sunday was followed by Return to Sender, a performance by six Iranian dancers (all of them women and all of them either grown up or born in Germany) directed and choreographed by Helena Waldmann and sponsored by the Goethe Institute in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their existence in Sri Lanka. The performance was at Waters Edge, followed by dinner for those who were invited and for those who were not, but chose to dine there anyway.
Return to Sender is a production of the Festival Montpellier Danse 2006, but evolved out of Letters from Tentland, which was “..born from the fruitful get-together with the support of the Dramatic Arts Center Tehran and the Goethe-Institut” in 2004. The production has since been seen in seventeen countries, after which “…Helena Waldmann changed the perspective of the piece for the Montpellier Danse Festival ’06. The Iranian ‘Letters from Tentland’ was now overwritten, answered and sent ‘Return to Sender’ by exiled Iranian women. So statements were transformed into answers by return mail”. That quoted bit is from the programme notes.
The other message the programme conveyed in relation to this production (and that fits a ‘refugee’ situation anywhere in the world): “Only three percent of the world’s population are migrants. But the world of the rich has a problem with this minority. Their escape from a settled existence at home towards an uncertain future does not exactly elicit increased hospitality. In between the law and police practice, they flutter like tents in the wind.”
The concept of the piece was as fascinating as it was powerful in respect of it being a political statement about the plight of refugee women. The audio-visual inserts blended beautifully with the images on stage, which for virtually the entire duration of the piece, were bodies in tents. That’s right, the tents danced! They danced to music by Iranian composers and musicians, which was quite exceptional and merged brilliantly with the surreal images – the misshapen, convoluting, unpredictable movements of the tents as they danced, and sang and spoke and bickered and wailed and thrashed around.
The ‘letters’ were projected on a filmy, gauzy curtain. The notes were typed as you watched – short, terse, expressing emotions and philosophical meanderings. They always ended with love – H. And they were always Returned to Sender.
The performance itself was outstanding and one wondered at the control of the performers within the confines of their tents – how they moved their ‘shells’ in such intricate ways to the rhythms and how, with all the rushing around in some parts, they never knocked each other over or messed with the visual balance. The music was superb, with the percussive bits dominating, and whatever the stringed and wind instruments were, they somehow conjured up the ‘feel’ of the message. Some of the performers actually sang, and spoke lines occasionally and it all coalesced in a dazzling display of theatre art.
At the end of the curtain-call and an extended standing ovation, the dancers invited the ladies in the audience backstage. They explained that sometimes it was the men they invited (for whatever it was that went down back there), but this time it was for the ladies. And so a bunch of ladies (The Dancer and some of her students among them) went off behind the curtain whilst Java and I had a couple of cans of German beer and a smoke or three in the foyer, chatting to assorted friends and acquaintances about the show.
Dinner was a blast, as The Dancer had been selected to chat with the performers and so we were at the same table and had the undivided attention of these very attractive and intelligent women and ended up with them arranging to meet at the Kalayathanaya to watch some traditional dance and also participate in some of the movements. Chatting about re-visiting Iran to one of them was as enlightening as it was interesting – it having much to do with the double-standards of the fundamentalist mindsets as opposed to what actually goes down behind closed doors. It reminded me of our own situation with the hypocritical religious bunch and their brand of Buddhism infecting the political sphere and affecting our lives. But then that’s how it goes in most unenlightened societies, right? This sentiment was actually reinforced when we heard that the performance was banned in Pakistan, so the Director of the Goethe Institute in Pakistan had to make her way to Colombo to catch the show!
Heey maaan, two fine shows in two nights be somting speshul in dis part of da world huh? An now wit our fren getting hisself ready for dat Equine trip nex mont, maybe we be havin more surprises in store, you tink?