Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Productions of Power for Reopened Theatre

#JeSuis/ Evros The Crossing River

Aakash Odedra/ Seemia Theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , November-29-18
#JeSuis/ Evros The Crossing River by Aakash Odedra/ Seemia Theatre On the evening of 22nd November Aberystwyth’s forty-seven year old Theatr y Werin was formally reopened. A plaque with a moving quatrain of verse was unveiled. Three directors were present, the current one introducing his distinguished visitors. The Vice-Chancellor paid tribute to the many long-standing staff. The Chair of the Arts Council of Wales reiterated the emphasis of his organisation’s plan and acknowledged the work done locally in assimilating eight families in flight from civil war. The Minister spoke with affection for Aberystwyth.

If a technical team could purr then it would be purring. An engineer from Fagan Electrical did not have to hand the exact number of drums of cable delivered onsite over the months of refurbishment. Its accumulated length is in excess of one hundred kilometres.

The organisations have collectively brought into the theatre the very latest that technology can offer. The investment has been made, says Phil George, in order that Aberystwyth may continue to be a beacon for the arts.

If the concrete is the hardware, the new cabling and seating the operating system, then the software that it serves is the art itself. Great art is not accidental, it is the result of deep network. Within days, and the departure of benefactors and funders, the venue is site for significant performance. Gill Ogden is creator of the “Theatre for Change” season.

Seemia Theatre’s 60-minute devised piece is composed of vignettes of loss. The places are unspecific but the names, Zeinab, Doaa, Hamid, are. Other names are suggestive of the Slav countries or Balkans. The acting is rich and layered in detail. Childhood lives under severe restriction and hazard are evoked. In these locales a walk outside means sticking close to the protection of a wall. But love still flourishes, an offer of marriage is received ecstatically. It moves towards a closing description of a boat journey of cruelty.

“Evros” has played in the Vaults at Waterloo, a more empathic space than the baldness of the Great Hall. The reactions of the reviewers there were uniform. “We never get to know much about the characters or hear any particularly imaginative dialogue”, wrote one, “however, the show is interspersed with very moving singing and some visually striking dance sequences.”

She is correct. The reality which the piece aspires to address is monstrous, in scale and scope. The emotional heft of “Evros” is carried in music, the five-part singing in harmony superb. The territory between the Mediterranean’s eastern shore and the Gulf is the Thirty Years War of the 21st-century. The striving to represent its essentially unrepresentability has had an analogue this month. Nine miles north of Aberystwyth on November 11th a face etched on the sands at Ynyslas was washed away by water. All species have their systems of communication but only one has the power to create metaphor to address the ineffable. The power of “Evros” is in its song.

Aakash Odedra and company return for a third time to Aberystwyth. The quality of #JeSuis is stunning, the motivation bold. The work for the seven dancers, performing in flawless synchrony for over an hour, is motivated by the Charlie Hebdo atrocity. The soundtrack incorporates fragmented speech, drums, bells. On the dark, smoky stage heads are swathed in cling film, a strangulation takes place. At the close the group turns their backs to us and walks into the dark. Seemia end their performance in the same way, walking in file into blackness singing a refrain “We are alive.” In the face of enormity the literal is insufficient, the non-literal modes of music and movement more rich, allusive and compelling.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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