Sunday, 10 October 2004

Alladeen, motiroti, Melbourne Festival, Oct 10, 2004

The Builders Association  & motiroti

Melbourne Arts Festival
Playhouse, Arts Centre, October 10, 2004

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There are two striking elements in Alladeen: the digital set design and the schizophrenic cultural identities of workers in an Indian call centre.

Two companies from two nations collaborate on the Alladeen project: The Builders Association, from New York, and motiroti, from London. Both focus their work on new technologies, visual design, sound and performance.

The show is in three parts. It begins on a street in New York, moves to a call centre in Bangalore, India, that services American companies, and ends in a karaoke bar in London.

In New York we see a multi-lingual woman booking flights to London by phone. Her phone conversations are peculiar because her salesperson is an Indian thousands of cultural miles away.

The digital images (Keith Khan, Ali Zaidi, Christopher Kondek) create an astonishingly, real and vivid stage design of New York and London. Silhouetted actors walking through projected images delight the audience.

It is Bangalore that gives the production its heart. As we watch live actors, (Rizwan Mirza, Heaven Phillips, Tanya Selvaratnam, Jasmine Simhalan, Jeff Webster) we see their real, Indian call centre counterparts on screen.

Five Indians train to erase their cultural identity and mother tongue accent, acquire an American twang and assimilate geographical and cultural information that will convince a caller from Arizona that they are from some US city.

Such cultural schizophrenia, cultural appropriation and massive deception are an outrage to anyone that values truth or believes a global village produces grotesque homogeneity.

These young people are only successful if their personality is subsumed by some amorphous, US television personality.

New York highlights the multiple voices of our world. London has a less clear intention, perhaps to parallel, in the bar, the anonymity of our world. 'Joey', from Bangalore, sits alone, en route to a phone sales conference, the New York woman phones home, people dance or sing, ignoring each other.

The references and images from the Aladdin story and its various manifestations in film are stretched too far. New technology being a genie, making our every dream come true, has a rather tenuous connection in Alladeen.

We are confronted by a collision of cultures, the global economy and American commercial imperialism. But we are left craving more connection with these five people in Bangalore.

LOOK FOR:  The replication of a New York street.

By Kate Herbert

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