Review: Made In Russia, Sacred Festival

October 26, 2009

Sacred FestivalThe Sacred Festival is in full swing now at the Chelsea Theatre, and as mentioned in my previous article here, it is one not to be missed. Bursting with contemporary practitioners, and theatre pieces from across Europe, there is hidden in the depths of Chelsea, a creative oasis.

What happens when you take two Russians, heavily involved in dance, and allow them to collaborate together on a theatre piece that both explores their own identity as performers but also interweaves a narrative of past experiences? Made In Russia is the outcome. A slightly surreal and bizarre post-modern theatre piece created, conceived and performed by Andrei Andrianov and Oled Soulimenko.

It’s hard to place my thoughts on this piece. I felt slightly disengaged by the performance at first. A purposeful detachment made by the performers stating how they wanted to start the piece with notable famous characters but failed to get them due to money. They start again. The performers stating how they wanted to start the piece with… they start again. It is repetitive, yet it is slightly addictive, the English subtitles playing comically behind the two exposed performers.

The piece shifts between small narratives delivered into a microphone, to varying styles of dance and further disengaging through recorded speech and the use of a television screen. Soulimnko and Andianov reveal small pieces of information about their lives, their careers and their various engagements with dance. They move between comic persona and expressive pieces of dance.

They speak of their relationship with Maya Plisetskaya and Jean-Luc Godard. It’s a focus point, a place that the narratives seem to always return to. Yet equally Made In Russia allows for the spectator to get lost in movements, the rolling images on the television screen and the speaking voices from the boom box. It blurs the boundaries between a dance piece and a post-modern theatre piece.

Made In Russia is a fragmented dance piece of captivating moments, of images, songs, lights, images.

It’s a body moving in space to robot styled music and a monotone voice delivering a letter to a lost friend, a lost collaborator.

It’s a moment in time expressed in a body transcended into a theatrical black box.

It is a metaphor.

It is a performance piece I do not quite understand but can appreciate.

The piece in both Russian and English also expresses the performers concerns with taking this very same piece of dance theatre to an English audience. “We must speak in English”, because apparently it is more accessible when spoken in English, yet equally the Russian language becomes slightly magical.

An hour later, as the performances draws to an end I struggle to comprehend how this dance theatre piece has managed to draw me into the depths of Russian culture and how I feel slightly compassionate towards these two Russian dancing men. I feel touched and actually proud to know that I’ve witnessed a Russian contemporary piece of theatre, that I was a witness to this happening.

The Sacred Festival of Contemporary Theatre and Performance is currently on at the Chelsea Theatre, see their website for a full listing of events.


Sacred Festival – Chelsea Theatre

October 19, 2009

Sacred FestivalLondon is most certainly a buzzing place, bursting full of life and events, so much so that it can sometimes be a bit difficult to focus on what might be worth a trip to and what just gets buried under the heap of other things that happening. Shamefully, theatre is one of those things that easily saturated with new shows, events and even festivals, meaning a lot gets missed.

Festivals, bringing together artists, shows, discussions, and generally speaking a whole excitement of culture are not to be missed. Especially that of Theatre Festivals, so let me draw your attention to the Sacred Festival being held next week at the Chelsea Theatre. It’s well worth a look.

The Sacred Festival has been running since 2006 at the Chelsea Theatre and has magically passed under my radar each year. However with the sort of line up within this years festival, I struggle to see how it’s not the talk of the town… yet. The festival focuses on Contemporary Theatre and whilst this is quite a broad spectrum, 2009 see’s the Chelsea Theatre linked with leading Austrian venue, Brut in Vienna and a whole host of leading and well known contemporary theatre practitioners.

The festival has so many promising events and shows that its hard to know where to begin, but here are a few highlights that should be noted in your diaries:

The Merry Widow by Cezary Tomaszewski

The Merry Widow by Cezary Tomaszewski

First comes Cezary Tomaszewski’s new production, an operetta called The Merry Widow. What is most intriguing about Tomaszewski’s production is that it uses four real-life Polish cleaning ladies. Taking the piece into quite an interesting dimension which promises to “free the genre from the dusts of simplicity and naivety and succeeds in placing into the centre of attention those who are otherwise almost wholly excluded from cultural creative processes.”

I'm Thinking Of Your (Version 2) by Franco B

I'm Thinking Of Your (Version 2) by Franco B

Franco B, a well known performance artist for using his body as a canvas for performance will be presenting his new show, I’m Thinking Of You (Version 2). Seeking to “present a surreal, dreamlike image… a romantic vision of childhood fantasy and abandon. The body is central, but we are also presented with objects and music, which converge to take the viewer through a contemplative, personal experience.” It will most certainly be one of the highlights of the festival for me, having heard of Franco B through many methods.

Other performances I’m eager to see include Action Hero‘s contemporary version of A Western, who are turning into a well known company on the contemporary theatre circuit. Originally from the depths of Bristol, I first heard of Action Hero last year during May Fest and since then the likes of Lyn Gardener regularly praises them. Including in the must see performances are Gob Squads show Live Long and Prosper, although a video instillation it will certainly prove to be just has fun, whacky and promising as their earlier work.

Sacred Festival isn’t just about performances though. There are a number of post show discussions with the various artists who are performing, which are completely free. Also there are several workshops that you can attend with some of the practitioners including ‘Writing for performance’ by Lone Twin, and ‘Art, Sex and Politics’ by Franco B.

For more information on the festival, see the Chelsea Theatre website… and if anything, get yourself down to see some of Europes best artists in a small but delightful theatre.

The Sacred Festival runs at the Chelsea Theatre from 21st October to 22nd November 2009