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Tag Archive | "Teatr ZAR"

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Review: Caesarean Section: Essays on Suicide

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Devawn Wilkinson

Caesarean Section: Essays on Suicide

In the darkness, the sound of glass shattering, ragged breaths, the dull thud of bodies thrown heavily against the floor. An orange rolls through a spreading pool of blood-red wine. A woman climbs a man’s body like a rope ladder, like a tree, scrambling higher, finding footholds on hip and collarbone, but he buckles and lets her fall. Teatr ZAR’s Caesarean Section: Essays on Suicide offers us images that are both strange and strangely familiar – its envisioning of self-negation is suicide as painted by the pre-Raphaelites and poeticised by the Romantics, a deed darkly eroticised and horrifically alluring.

This fragmented, discordant quasi-narrative is made up of frenzied, painful power-plays between a trio of nameless, ambiguous figures identified in the programme only as ‘man’ (Matej Matejka) and the ‘women’ (Ditte Berkeley and Kamila Klamut). Predominantly a dance piece, Caesarean.. is accompanied by a miniature on-stage orchestra of strings, piano and rusty upright saw, along with the swell and hum of unearthly choral voices. A fissure runs through the centre of the wooden platform, brimming with glimmering shards of glass, and the performers are drawn to its glare like magpies. Though the duets that sprawl and skitter around the stage seem recognisable enough – tender brawls, violent embraces between lovers, rivals, parents and children – as they intensify, we understand them more as struggles between the will to life and the desire for death, tense tangos between self-destruction and salvation, where the urge to destroy, though often tamed, is never quite defeated.

Brief stabbing moments of near-comedy keep the piece teetering between darkness and light. To a soundtrack of jaunty music hall piano, Berkeley puts a noose around her neck, the other end of the rope knotted around the branch of a potted sapling. She holds a watering can, and waits. We start to laugh, until she breaks free of that cartoon and bites at her wrists, smashes them against the floor, massages the veins to push the blood out. We reconsider our laughter, we swallow it. As an experience, a sensory onslaught, it’s almost irresistible – the gorgeous, startling visuals, the polyphonic sound that seems to come not from the performers’ bodies but our own, resonating from the very walls and foundations of the Council Chamber we’re sat in. We are ensnared in the endless interplay of choreographed chaos and the real, unadulterated risk of harm – the dancers’ bare feet so vulnerable to all the scattered sharp edges, the way the chairs they’re sat in keep pulling suddenly out from under them. At one point, Klamut runs in circles, knocking over chairs and instruments, hurtling around with such frightening abandon that, for a moment, the frenzy onstage is uncontainable and spills out into the audience, making our vision blur, our hearts beat erratically.

Yet, whilst Teatr ZAR might be lauded for tackling a taboo topic, I can’t help but see something problematic in its consciously poetic and therefore markedly insensitive treatment of the subject matter. Caesarean Section is undoubtedly beautiful, but perhaps it’s so beautiful to the point of being damaging because, whatever Teatr ZAR’s intentions, it manages to contribute more to the over-mystification of suicide rather than ever incisively investigating it. Completely de-contextualised, we find ourselves trapped helplessly in a pre-psychiatry dark age where death glitters invitingly as the fragments of glass, dark and sweet as the spilt wine. Seemingly content to stun us with spectacle, the stunned silence the piece leaves us with is exactly that – a silence that refuses to answer any of the troubling questions it raises, that does not open up a dialogue or provoke debate – and there is something brutal, even callous, in its finality. Though the visual language is rich and dynamic, it also betrays a grand lack of eloquence about the reality of suicide, a reality muted, here, by a revelling in the baroque images that it can conjure. By painting the suicide victim as a perversely willing one, Teatr ZAR is in danger of suggesting that suicide is not really a concern, but a necessary dramatic conclusion – that those who find themselves  drawn to such an act are beyond language and ultimately, beyond help.

Caesarean Section: Essays on Suicide is playing at the Battersea Arts Centre until 18 October. For more information and tickets, please see the Battersea Arts Centre website.

Devawn Wilkinson

Devawn Wilkinson

Devawn is a London-based writer, performance poet and aspiring theatre-maker. As a reviewer, she has written for A Younger Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Exeunt Magazine.

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Ceasarean Section. Essays on Suicide

Posted on 11 August 2012 by Jake Orr

Any lover of theatre will be able to look back and pinpoint a moment in their theatre-going and tell you that a production that was the best thing they have seen. They’ll remember certain nuances of the production, be it a line, a movement, perhaps a performer or a particular piece of music. These memories will be stored away and when required they’ll be remembered, and the theatregoer will be transported back to the theatre, remembering vividly what it was that had them – that fluttering moment in their heart that made them realise that this production is the one that they always look for. For me, seeing Ceasarean Section. Essays on Suicide for a second time, after witnessing their 2009 run at the Barbican Theatre, once again pinpoints the beauty and excited moment when I find theatre that I’ve been looking for all year. It is a breathtaking piece that wriggles inside of you and dances a powerful and primal dance of desire, lust and repulsion. Never has my heart soured so high – this, this, is what every theatregoer strives for.

Performed by the Polish Teatr Zar, the company create a score of polyphonic songs based upon Bulgarian, Romanian, Icelandic and Chechen influences. This they deliver in such a manner that the vocals resonate within your body and threaten to burst out. Their primitive songs hark back to a day before electronic devices and feed upon the human connection between voice and body. It is clear that this bodily resonance is at the heart of the company’s work, with Ceasarean Section depicting a series of physical moments where women reach the breaking point, standing on a ledge between suicide and life. This is beautifully portrayed, with dances between couples and solo pieces that summon the demons within.

The design of the piece makes much use of the breaking of a glass as a symbol of destruction and fragility. The audience is plunged into darkness and suddenly echoing around the space comes the smashing of glass after glass. A channel dug into the centre of the stage is full of glass fragments, the performers treading over and through, scattering fragments across the stage, and perilously dancing atop. This, and the superb lighting that evokes loneliness, adds much visual spectacle to the aural aspects of the production.

It is the vocal, however, that reigns in Ceasarean Section. Whilst the images and movement evoke the physical portrayal of destruction and saviour that suicide teeters between, the choral singing does so much more. It evades the body, provoking an emotive quality that reduces you to tears. Resonating, and calling upon the primitive and earth-like qualities that humans posses, I was rendered speechless. This is not just masterful theatre, this is living, breathing theatre of epic proportions.

***** – 5/5 stars

Ceasarean Section. Essays on Suicide is playing at Summerhall until 20 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Review: The Gospels of Childhood

Posted on 02 October 2009 by Jake Orr

The Barbican Centre is an odd place, I have come to realise. It is somewhat of a community built within itself and it’s concrete walls. There is a housing estate, cinema, shops, bars, theatres, music halls, and even a church. Whilst I may get lost every time I venture to his strange centre, I always leave filled to the brim with theatre joy. Enter stage left, Teatr ZAR.

Teatr ZAR with Gospels of Childhood
Teatr ZAR with Gospels of Childhood

Teatr ZAR are a multinational group formed in Worclaw who are collaborating with the Growtowski Institute. This perhaps will set a certain standard for this theatre company, a certain method of working, especially when being so closely linked to the work of Growtoski, one of the worlds most notable theatre directors/experimenters. This comment is quite fair to state, especially after watching their debut performance of The Gospel of Childhood.

As audiences we are instructed via email to meet outside St Giles church, a rather odd location set within the heart of the Barbican Centre, surrounded by water, and modern built buildings. The church is a beautiful venue, no doubt about it. But what happens within the church and of the performance itself is something far beyond beautiful, it is captivating, entrancing, emotional and heartbreaking all at once.

Concentrating on the voice as a tool to lead and establish a form of theatre, Teatr ZAR create a whirl wind of choral chanting and rhythmic voice combined with various repetitive physical actions. The themes explored are that of the circle of life, from birth to death. The vocal ability of this group is extraordinary, where their songs and chanting lead the spectator into an emotional state. This is not surprising considering the word ZAR comes from the name of funeral songs performed by the Svaneti tribe in North-West Georgia.

Lamentation has always fascinated me, it’s something which is truly emotional and really piercing to listen to. The Gospel of Childhood features multiple layers of repetitive chanting, wailing, lamenting – full of harmonies, dissonance and melodies bursting with mournful life.

Teatr ZAR are true masters of the voice.

Gospels of Childhood
Gospels of Childhood

St Giles church is perhaps the perfect setting for this performance. The use of candles through the performance sets a certain ritualistic style for the chanting. The use of hanging pipes that are played mimic the sound of church bells adding to the events that unfold. In true European manner there is an uncertainty as to when each section of the performance ends. No clapping, no obvious crescendo, but instead silence.

Whilst The Gospel of Childhood is beautiful to listen to, and to ultimately experience (I find it hard to truly define this performance as anything but an experience) – there are flaws to the work. The vocal aspect of this is flawless. They are, as I’ve said, masters of the voice. But this isn’t purely a piece to listen to, there has to be an element of seeing the physical side of performance too.

There lacks a certain movement, or physicality, or even something beyond this. I can’t quite place my finger on it. You get so wrapped up in the atmosphere and the music, the chanting – the shapes of the body and the odd spoken english lines that you forget at times that this is a piece of theatre where there is meant to be some form of movement. Whilst this isn’t a static piece, it is slightly obvious that the musical element of the performance is the core of the piece, with the physical overlapped. It doesn’t take away from the performance, but it does leave it behind from a well rounded performance.

Gospels of Childhood2
Glass, Wine, Lamentation

The middle part of the Triptych of The Gospels of Childhood is within the Barbican’s Pit Theatre. The style is completely different and kind of tilts the whole performance in a completely different direction to the ritual aspects delivered in the church. The design element here is crucial, the use of broken glass, shattering of glass, glass chips slicing the stage apart, the spilling of wine, the spilling of blood all links beautifully with the song and instruments used. The suicidal aspects used within this middle section are not needed and take away from the performance itself, making this middle section rather weak compared to the church parts one and two.

However, do not for a moment be put off by this slightly odd affair of a performance. It is challenging. I can’t say I understood what was happening from moment to moment. The questions it raised though, along with the beautiful, yes that cliche word of beautiful (but how else to sum up the experience I had?) voices left me stunned into silence.

It’s not often you’ll get to see theatre of this nature without stepping into Poland, so my advice is to brace the slightly cold night to queue for returns for this production, as unfortunately it is now completely sold out. If anything, A MUST SEE.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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