Sunday, 22 May 2016

Memories of a Dramaturgy: Saras Feijóo @ CCA


MEMORIES OF A LULLABY
- the need to remember and the wish to forget -



Scotland Premiere of Brighton Fringe Bursary WINNER show at Refugee Festival Scotland!

Memories of a Lullaby – the need to remember and the wish to forget - is a one-woman show about Saras' experience growing up in Venezuela. It draws from multiple true experiences in order to reveal the constant tension between horror and beauty, desperation and hope. This performance explores how socio-political conditions shape us as individuals, while attempting to give a perspective on how reality differs greatly depending on where we are born/raised in the world.

Saras skillfully combines storytelling, physical political theatre and visual art elements to give a full-on, yet tender show by a performer with first-hand experience of the events she portrays. At the end of the show, not only will we have travelled through 25 years of history, but also, a 2meters painting will have been created.

“The piece has the ability to touch audiences deeply” Tim Licata – Plutot la Vie Artistic Director



What was the inspiration for this performance?
                                      
To be able to share my personal story which I had to hide within myself for so long. I could not hold anymore the pain inside myself created by the tension between the terror I experienced while living in Venezuela: the sound of gunshots I could hear every night, the corruption I witnessed, the ever-present fear that death was around the corner; alongside the beauty of the land I come from, my family, my friends and the constant sun!

For many years, I was unable to talk openly about these experiences, even with my closest friends. However, two years ago I felt the need to open it all up, and felt ready to share it with others. I wanted to create something beautiful from my memories and to share them from an honest place.

At first it was a personal show, but soon it became universal, touching the experiences of many people around the world currently undergoing similar situations.

Memories of a Lullaby – the need to remember and the wish to forget - not only - has allowed me to understand more about the unimaginable situation that people in Venezuela are experiencing but also, it is giving me the opportunity to inform audiences about it.

Throughout the piece, I combine three art forms: storytelling, physical theatre and visual arts, as I am creating a large scale painting during the show. Bringing many different colours and emotions into one place, I realised that this show started because I wanted to share and heal my own past experiences about my upbringing but now, I feel I have become the bottle that has crossed many waters, walked many soils and this show is the message contained inside it.


How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I have been working on this show for the last two years, and have gathered an exceptional team, joining my process in its different stages of development of the show:


Firstly, I worked with: Yael Karavan, director/creative advisor - The Karavan Ensemble. I met Yael couple of years ago in Edinburgh. That time, I was working on a little piece with two other artists and Yael came to mentor us for one day. I really liked her way of working and her thinking so few weeks later I emailed her with this project and she was happy to join me as my director/creative advisor.

She has really helped me to bring out these experiences from my past, exploring the material I have inside in order to create these piece. She has also been very respectful to the material as well as my vision for the show and its message.

Then, Gavin Taylor, composer/musician join in. I have worked with Gavin previously on my other solo show Blooming Surprise - a story about loneliness, hope and love. I really enjoyed working with him so I invited him to create a very special bespoke track for one of the most important parts of the piece.

I have also reconnected with my ex-classmate a talented feminist philosopher Marelis Loreto Amoretti who has written philosophical articles for me about Venezuelan situation but also about certain subjects I was exploring: they helped me understand more myself as well as the fact that, to some extent, I am the result of a rotten society. 

This process has made us very close now and I feel, her words have become a very important part on the understanding of Venezuela’s current difficult situation.

Luis Perez Valero, Venezuelan composer/musician, has been the last artist to join the team! He has created a very powerful sound track that I use in the most significant moments of the show.


How did you become interested in making performance?
                                  
I always had a passion for the arts!

In fact, I asked my mum the other day if I always was an artist… “does painting on the walls count?” she said.

Since I was 8 years old, I remember sitting with my grandmother either knitting, or making some crafts, or I would be drawing.
At 16, I was studying philosophy at Central University of Venezuela. When I was 18, I took a break to go and study Fashion Design: I graduated cum laude and soon became the fashion designer at Indiani – a Venezuelan label – while running my own label Bjaki. When I became fashion teacher at the institute I graduated from, I came back to finish my Philosophy studies at the university.

I was 25 years old when I saw my first ever theatre clown show!!! Con las Alas Despiertas (With Awaken Wings) by Victor Stivelman. I still remember it.

I was sitting in the first row, “glued” to the seat and totally terrified when the theatre clown artist came towards the audience… I was thinking “not me please, not me!!!!”

At the end of the show, I thought: “I want to be a theatre clown artist!”. I loved the depth, beauty, honesty, transparency and playfulness of the piece.

At the time, I was writing my philosophy dissertation based on Beatrice Longuenesse's book: Kant and the Capacity to Judge. I was still working on my small clothes label Bjaki. However, I join a clown workshop with Victor Stivelman, the theatre clown deviser, performer and director of Con las Alas Despiertas and after few weeks of training I created my first solo-clown piece as well as a duet with a lovely clown called Leonardo Sivira. We performed at Clownerias – an event with pieces created during Victor's workshops.

After performing at that event, I left everything behind to become a theatre clown artist. Three months later, I was part of a theatre clown group premiering our show Lapsus: Deslices Extra-ordinarious at the Aleph in Pasto, Colombia and touring it as part of International Theatre Festival at Cali, Popayan and Pasto.

I now also work with physical/visual theatre, storytelling, dance, immersive installations as well as continuing with my visual art practice.

Additionally, I have created CloWnStePPinG – a hub to further the understanding, promotion and development of theatre clown as an art.


Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
                                  
Yes, and no.

Yes, because I always make performance based on my own experiences, beliefs and knowledge.

No, because, perhaps, this is the first time I invited a director to help me shape my show from the very beginning stages. It is also the first time I work with a philosopher!

However, I can intuitively, say that my approach to create anything changes in every moment. As my good friend will say so accurately in his latest book: “those who live fully constantly change, they are never the same”.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
                                       
Hope! To be able to appreciate a reality that many in the world experience daily and yet, continue to move forward.
For me that Hope - to some extent - resides in art and that has helped me to heal some deep wounds, allowing me to speak my truth through my work.

As well as that, this show - in itself- would be the hope at the end of the tunnel that possibly the Venezuelan people cannot yet see... and for our audiences, it would hopefully be an eye opener to this unimaginably tough reality.


Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Possibly part of experimental multidisciplinary theatre. 

What Saras has to say about the show:
During the show, I talk about my family, my friends, the sun warming my skin, the time I was kidnapped by corrupt police, the dead body I saw through my bathroom window when I was 8. Emphasizing the constant battle between the memories I wish to remember and the ones I feel the need to forget. I recreate the beauty of the landscapes, the lively Latin rhythms while at the same time the deaths that can occur from simply using a mobile phone in public places. Reminiscing my lullabies made out of gunshots through the nights. 

There is an exploration of Venezuela's unimaginable situation nowadays: the lack of food, medicines supplies and the constant and never-ending fear and struggles they experience daily.

“The combination of visual art and spoken and visual narrative helped vividly to created a strong, multi-layered powerful and moving picture of your own life experience” Simon Hart – Manipulate Festival Director. 




Refugee Festival Scotland
After each show there will be a Q&A session and Silent Auction of the Painting with some of the proceeds to go to a Refugee Charity.

Venue: Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR
Time: 19:30 
Running Time: 110min -including Q&A and silent auction
Dates: 15th & 16th June.


Venue: Borders Book Festival
Harmony House/St. Marys Rd, Melrose TD6 9LJ
Time: 19:30
Dates: 17th June.


Venue: CCA
350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD
Time: 18:30
Dates: 19th June.


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Hanging @ The Tron

Roger Casement was 'on the right side of history'. As a revolutionary for Irish independence, and a homosexual who, in Peter Arnott's play, refuses to apologise for his orientation, he becomes more a victim of early twentieth century attitudes than the traitor he is called by the British state. The double 'crimes' he committed, a century later, would not be prosecuted today. The incriminating diary of his sexual activity, used by British Intelligence to discredit him, would probably be a best seller.

Arnott is too subtle a writer, however, to make a simple, ironic tragedy about a man out of time. Using a basic structure - two men are locked in verbal battle - his script teases out the complexity of political action, questions of honour and the thin line between idealism and violence.

Given Casement's rehabilitation after his death (he counts among the martyrs who died for an independent Ireland), his characterisation is strikingly ambiguous. His initial honesty and display of moral integrity - refusing to lie or implicate others who may yet be innocent - gives way to duplicity in the second half. Captain Hall, representing the British state, gives reasonable justifications for Casement's arrest, spending the first hour attempting to offer the prisoner escape routes from the gallows. Hall turns vicious after he realises that Casement was involved in the organisation of the Easter Sunday uprising, and reading his explicit diary. The blend of sexual paranoia and disappointment at Casement drives Hall to violence, finally assuming the mantle of colonial oppressor.

Arnott's script is less interested in the hallowed hero and imperial
stereotypes than the complexity of his protagonist's life. Casement's work in Africa (which he regards as a financial deal with the oppressive empire) made him a dashing Victorian hero, the inspiration for Conrad's Heart of Darkness and a dream-like interlude suggests that his experiences on the continent informed his attitude towards the British Empire. Benny Young captures an edgy, nervous energy, as Casement alternates between to desire to act the gentleman and protect his fellow activists. At one moment he is apologising for inconveniencing Hall: the next, he is describing his integrity in refusing to accept money from the German state. While his execution is tragic - and as a coda taen from George Bernard Shaw implies - unnecessary, Young's performance reveals a man ready to take responsibility, and pride, in his actions.

Stephen Clyde, as Hall and a few other characters - including a brutal Irish policeman - is a foil to Young's central role, but is given a presence and intelligence by the script. His initial concern and respect for Hall may disappear in a homophobic disgust, but his sadness at the brutality caused in response to Casement's conspiracy offers a picture of a colonial warden driven by duty rather than sadism. The power is clearly tilted towards him - he regards the Irish revolutionaries as 'children' and their defeat as a necessary punishment - yet he attempts to be just, and identifies the value of Empire within its belief in justice.

The possible relationship to Scotland's own independence is unspoken - and, despite the programme notes, tangential. It's clear that the stakes were higher for Ireland in 1916 (the activists ending up executed then). Although Casement is given dignity, and drawn as both a sexual and political revolutionary, the script is far too nuanced to leave a clear moral, but rather invites continued discussion on the morality of Casement's actions.



Ewige Blumenkraft



The Anguish of the Critic