Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Le Dernier Caravanserail (Odysees) Part One: The Cruel River by Theatre du Soleil, Oct 10, 2005

Le Dernier Caravanserail (Odysees) 
Part One: The Cruel River by Theatre du Soleil  
Sydney Festival
Royal Exhibition Building, Sydney, Oct 11 until Oct 16, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 11, 2005

The subtitle, The Cruel River, is a metaphor for all the journeys depicted in Le Dernier Caravanserail, Part One. Its cruelty is portrayed frighteningly in the opening scene.

Performers, directed by the visionary Ariane Mnouchkine, (OK) manipulate masses of billowing grey silk that represent the violent torrent of the river. The soundscape roars, the refugees, taking their lives in their hands, attempt to cross the raging water in a basket. Many succumb to the floodwaters.

What follows is a series of vivid and imaginative theatrical vignettes depicting episodes from the journeys of refugees from Central Asia and Eastern Europe to potential safety in France.

Theatre du Soleil based the production on interviews with Iranian, Afghani and Kurdish refugees. We hear their voices as their words, in their own languages, are translated on screen. The truth of their pain is palpable and provides a powerful, emotional foundation for this performance.

The design (Guy-Claude Francois) is flexible and exciting. The vast, empty stage transforms in an instant into a French Red Cross refugee camp, a hut in Afghanistan, a home in Teheran, the coast of Calais, a train track in France a village in Africa or a phone box in Moscow.

In this epic, we encounter victims of the Taliban, demonstrators against the regime in Teheran, a desperate Russian woman and her daughter. As well as the victims, we meet the criminals who control and abuse them. These refugees escape from one tyrant only to fall prey to another.

Inventive theatrical devices transport us in time and place. Each character is wheeled on a small platform and appears to float in space. A hut is turned on wheels to reveal a new scene. Escapees disappear down a pit. Trees float by on wheels.

The evocative soundscape (Patricia Cano, Yann Lemetre, Marie Heuze') combines with live contemporary and traditional Arabic music played live behind a scrim. (Jean-Jacques Lemetre) The actors, as is common in Theatre du Soleil productions, are visible through transparent curtains, changing costume and waiting entrances.

The enormous, multi-lingual cast of consummate actors, performs with passion and commitment, bringing to life, through this abstract form, a poignant story of loss, grief, homelessness and courage.

The horror of the lives of these individuals is paramount and I remind us of our own chequered history and questionable treatment of refugees.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment