Directed by Tanushka Marah
Unity Theatre (17th & 18th November 2006)
War, and the pity of war, is the subject of this moving, enthralling and powerfully poetical piece of physical theatre from Company:Collision.
The play begins with two childlike puppets arguing over where they will play. The smaller one wants to play in the bigger one's room, as it is larger. When words fail, the bigger puppet threatens violence, and the smaller one says that mum is on his/her side. It is a scene familiar to anyone who has a brother or sister, or indeed anyone who has witnessed a conflict over scarce resources. Which is probably everyone reading this, because that's the only kind of conflict there is, if you think about it.
Anyway, the games begin, and we are introduced to the six flesh-and-blood 'dolls' - played by Liz Griffiths, John Healey, David Kelly, Sarah Leaver, Bronwyn Lim, Tanushka Marah and Ira Seidenstein - whose story this is. Each is dressed in rags and covered in dust and sand following a series of explosions. They speak in a language especially invented for the production, but through repetition, exaggerated movements and the universality of human feelings such as love, fear and bereavement, everyone soon knows exactly what's going on.
The dirty half dozen live in a place that is being bombarded by an army somewhere in the audience. They cause seems hopelessly lost, but they must fight on, because they have nothing left to lose.
It is impossible to praise this performance too highly. Every movement is perfectly executed, every note sung is pitch-perfect and oozes emotion. And the effort the actors must have gone to in learning this fictional language was handsomely rewarded by the rapturous applause they received at the end of the show. Special praise must also go to the writers, for applying their vivid imaginations so productively.
Though we were watching make-believe dolls in an unspecified location, the audience was left in no doubt that we were really witnessing life in Iraq, Palestine, and anywhere else that an armed resistance movement is taking on a brutal occupation. However, if there is such a thing as a human condition, it is an element within us that can and must co-operate in order to survive when the chips are down, an element that cannot be conquered through mere shock and awe firepower. This shone through the performance, and made the whole experience somehow hopeful.
A massive amount of talent was involved in the making of Nothing Left to Lose, so forget The Sound of Music, Company:Collision deserve much wider exposure.