CRITIC WORKS BY STATT MILLER

Being the main actor in a new play: the born of a father [Perched on the Scaffolds]

Perched on the Scaffolds. Asociatia Art No More Bucaresti company. Director: Robert Balan. Text: Dósa Andrei, Robert Serban, Radu Pavel Gheo, Vasile Ernu, Igor Mocanu, Robert Balan and others. Video: Petre Fall. Scenography: Ana Iulia Popov. Interpretation: Virgil Aioanei, Nicu Rotaru, Robert Balan. 

 

International Theater Festival for Young Audiences, XII edition

Teatrul Luceafarul Iasi, Sala mica, Iasi, Romania, October 7th, 2019

 

Whenever a child is born, a parent is born. From the birth of a newborn, fatherhood also comes to the world. And with it many expectations, dreams, doubts and above all many fears that are linked with the fear of failing in this commitment that emerges as a profession for life: being a father.

In the context of the XII International Theater Festival for Young Audiences in Iasi, Romania, the Asociatia Art No More Bucaresti collective brings to the public Perched on the Scaffolds, a show that talks about the universe of parenting, which usually focuses on the role of women. The form of the performance alternates between the stand-up genre and the construction of small sketches that reproduce the daily lives of three parents.

The protagonists, (the actors Virgil Aioanei, Nicu Rotaru, Robert Balan), are three recent parents that the public can understand as being “the Academic”, “the Afraid Passionate” and “the Depressed.” Thus, they present to the audience their doubts, their experiences as parents and, above all, they express and claim their place and importance within the family and the role of education and care of their babies.

The “Academic”, always equipped with scientific bibliography, makes the spectator know a whole universe of manuals dedicated to the mother. With an ironic and sarcastic tone, and a blasé attitude,  he reveals data, techniques, numbers and speeches in the feminine about what it is to be a mother. No compendia for parents: they are excluded from crib statistics and aids.

The “Afraid Passionate” represents the modern father, the one who helps at home, who takes care of his children, who cooks, who walks with the baby. He is the one who plays his role as a father as well as his mother, and who is as committed as his mother to this commitment to having a child. He is also tired of sleepless nights, unwashed clothes and uncooked porridge. It is the father who claims paternity leave to spend the first few days with the newborn because it is as necessary as the time the baby spends with the mother. It is the partner who helps the mother in all the functions associated with the new event of their lives.

The “Depressed” is the one who can’t stand it: the one that has broken down in expectations and couldn’t handle all the changes and difficulties that it means to have a child. And it raises a pertinent question while denouncing a valid reality: “Is there postpartum depression for parents?”

Perched on the Scaffolds reflects not only the parental reality in Romania but also compares it with reality in the rest of Europe. It is thus a politicized discourse, in masculine, about the rights and duties that men have in society, and discusses the place of men and women as a couple.

Its documentary nature (because the show is equipped with real images that are from time to time projected, where we see these parents with their children) presents and represents the change in the parental paradigm of our day, where parents claim their rights. It is therefore also a cathartic show where parents talk about their frustrations and perspectives, especially because a child represents a profound change in the subject’s way of life and priorities.

The speech, which is clear, cohesive, well-structured and deep, is delivered to the viewer with sincerity, framed by a very effective humorous tone. The scenic structure is not always convenient to the progression of the show, and there are moments of “fourth wall” that fall outside the general tone of the experience, whose dynamics invests mainly in the role of the spectator as the direct receiver of the game played there.

The skill of the actors lies in the way in which they manage the self-biographical material in theatrical discourse, making it laughable while touching, focusing on the words and their stories, without any other artifice on the stage.

It is a staging of a generous sharing where the cast plays the most important role of their lives: being a parent. And what is difficult about this show of life is that there is no paper to be decorated, no script to guide them in their daily counterpart with the kids.In a festival that takes place under the theme of Freedom, Perched on the Scaffolds calls the arrival of a child not as a necessary loss of freedom, but undoubtedly as an alteration.

It is a new freedom, lived together, that which occurs in the relationship between parents and children. It is a spectacle not for children, but about them, at a time when they become protagonists of a story that is not their own, but who made them come into the world.

 

Can the Pain: when the theater is the pickle [Little Piece of Wood] Little Piece of Wood. DJARAMA Company. Director: Sylvie Baillon. Interpretation and scenography: Patricia Gomis. Music: Ndeye Seck. Marionete Construction: Vera Rozanova and the children from the village. Graphic conception and technique: Cécile Balate. Costume: Mame Fagueye Bâ. Decoration construction: Mayoro Ndiaye. Artistic Conciliar: Fanny Berard. Co-production: Le Tas de Sable – Ches Panses Vertes.

 

International Theater Festival for Young Audiences, XII edition

French Institute, Iasi, Romania, October 4th, 2019

 

In the context of the XII International Theater Festival for Young Audiences, which this year takes place under the theme “Freedom”, the Senegalese company DJARAMA presents Little Piece of Wood.

Little piece of wood happens to a solo actress (Patricia Gomis) and a percussionist (Ndeye Seck) who follows the development of the narrative. And the story to be told does not happen under the veil of fiction, but poetizes a sad reality of Senegal: mixing the Senegalese dialect with the French language, DJARAMA company brings to the festival the reality of street children.

Rescuing some of African child panorama, this show is made through identity, memory and the ability to share a narrative. Following a storytelling technique, the actress captivates her audience by enhancing the power of the text through the look, tone of voice, body movements and sound environment released by the music. In this show, the cast that accompanies the actress is composed by tomato canes which are made actors through the imagination. They are the personification of the kids called “tomato pots”, who that live forsaken by their fate, asking those who meet with them alms and food to comfort the stomach, and above all food for the soul, always using the tomato cans as a measure of circumstances.

The purpose is not to deliver the story ready, it is to make the public use their imagination to conceive reality. The aesthetic aspect of the show situates the viewer in Senegal, mainly through the right and very effective choice of sonoplasty, costumes and props, which simplicity’s and roughness’s remain, somehow, the narrated African atmosphere.

The cans, hats and puppets made of wood aid the performance of the actress, who embodies in tomato cans and wood marionettes crude dialogues about liberty, family or food. The virtuosity of the show lies in the commitment, dexterity and emotionality with which the actress advances the story, while giving life to the cans made of the real fiction.

Thus, we know the daily lives of Suleiman and other boys who are constantly exploited, abused and tortured, in contrast to the daily life of the narrator herself, who naively wants to have what she thinks is the freedom of these kids. The narrator recalls her childhood days, reveals that she always had food at the table (hard work of a devoted mother), hours to get up and lay down, had father and mother, a home and a family. But the young woman looks with some charm on the life of the “tomato pot” kids, who live without rules.

The joy in the performance of the narrator while describing how the kids borrowed money on the street, or played soccer with their means, or bathed in the sea as they could, or escaped abusive uncles, contrasts with the painful content of the reality of the story told. For this girl, who the actress brings us with an autobiographical aura, being a “tomato pot” is a real adventure. For these “tomato can kids”, the adventure is how to survive in a daily base.

The show is thus entertaining leaving the viewer between comfort and emotional confusion in the face of such narration. Although the performance is made with great technique, its suspicious embracement transforms it in a performance that is governed by this emotional path, manipulating to its pleasure the sensations and the empathy of its audience. It is a show made to touch, to thrill, to denounce a cause, a context and a raw reality, in an extremely poetic way, but the performance doesn’t leave the spectator out of an orchestration of feelings.  Little piece of wood gives us insight into the lives of children who are constantly exploited and abused in every way. Kids who are reserved for a collective anonymity, to whom this show comes to assign somewhere. However, will not there be in this show its exploitation part of these children? Apart from the complaint, are we not facing someone who improperly enjoys this childish context? What does the public bring with them as a distant witness to these crimes? What active part does this performance have in the reality from which it arises?

Statt Miller

Portuguese Association of Critics of Theatre,

Participant, Workshop for young critics

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