Friday, October 19, 2007

Sclavi/The Song Of An Emigrant

Farm In The Cave
Liverpool Everyman (14th-15th October 2007)

On paper, this production seemed to promise so much. It would be a study of migration - a subject that's always topical - which would entertain and educate with its traditional Czech songs and brand new dance routines. Unfortunately, when it came to the night itself there was something missing.

There can be no doubting the skill of the performers, who showed great levels of agility and coordination as they threw themselves across the stage for an hour. Excellent use was made of their metal wagon, which was the basis of a percussive soundtrack that was added to be every footfall. However, when the piece finished, I was no wiser about the conditions that migrant workers suffer, because Farm In The Cave abandoned any idea of a story, preferring instead to focus on 'energy' and 'vibrations', in the words of director Viliam Dočolomanský.

This immediately presents a problem when the audience is unfamiliar with the eastern European dialects on show. If we can't relate to the language, and the body language of the actors is deliberately non-representational, then all the energy and vibrations in the world aren't going to help us get to grips with the story. In a post-performance question and answer session, Dočolomanský rejected narrative entirely, on the grounds that "everyone will have their own interpretation".

Of course there is an element of truth to this. We all have different DNA, and we have all had different life experiences, so we all perceive works of art in different ways. But if an artist throws up their hands and doesn't even try to convey a message, it is clear that the artist lifestyle is far more important to them than the subject matter. Proposing to create a piece on migration becomes just another meal ticket. The audience is left with a tale full of sound and fury, signifying next to nothing.
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