undercurrents

greg hooper: abhinaya theatre co & topology, the lady from the sea

The Lady from the Sea,  Abhinaya Theatre Company & Topology

The Lady from the Sea, Abhinaya Theatre Company & Topology

The Lady from the Sea, Abhinaya Theatre Company & Topology

THE LADY FROM THE SEA PRESENTS IBSEN’S PLAY AS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN BRISBANE’S TOPOLOGY AND THE ABHINAYA THEATRE COMPANY FROM KERALA (INDIA, ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE NEAR THE BOTTOM) AND TOOK ABOUT NINE MONTHS TO PUT TOGETHER, AMIDST OTHER WORK AND THE WHOLE PROBLEM OF EAST/WEST TIMEZONE DIFFERENCES. THERE’S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT COLLAB POST NET, BUT TIMEZONE STILL GETS IN THE WAY—IT’S A VERTICAL SLICE OF THE WORLD THAT’S THE EASIEST TO LINK UP. NORTH-SOUTH DIALOGUE FOR THE WIN.

The stage is a two and a bit level stack: Topology high up on the top, then below them the stage proper and surtitles in between. It’s the beach/under the ocean, the water clear, the sound of waves. Sand on the stage. Behind the stage the projection screens. Women float along, remora attached, translucent pale blue.

Rich conch drone from the bass and composer Robert Davidson’s first piece begins, exquisitely lyrical, an exceptional work. On stage, a woman struggles in argument with a disembodied, low male voice(over), soft and convincing in a language I don’t know. Doesn’t matter, tone carries all, and I seldom use the translation.

There are also three blokes on stage wearing fully head-covering flesh-coloured helmets that have a single eye. Now, generally, “fleshy helmet with single eye” induces risible penis references but these guys act as a form of mute chorus that seems to work. I feel as though I should be finding it more kitsch than I do.

The pace is slow—I think how a pulp thriller writer like Matthew Riley writes life as a rapid-fire series of short sharp episodes, zero character, zero description, the story transmitted through causal linkage of concrete actions. The Lady from the Sea presents the other view of life story, sloughed of events, immaterial. Life as Idea in Duration, rather than events jammed next to each other, strung out in a line, the more the better.

Two characters and “the voice.” The woman is emotional, distraught, histrionic. She is tempted by the voice, which seems to represent a type of counterfactual life. If only I’d done that and not the other then I wouldn’t be stuck with this, the now, the actual. She is distressed by her marriage to the actual man, the man on stage, who is not emotional, or not that you’d notice. Their marriage is breaking down, the glory days gone. The woman feels trapped by her own decision to marry and he just can’t say anything right, nothing that can make up for lost time, the dream life, the ‘if only then were now, choices would be changed, now would be better.’ She blames him for her decision. He should have been above the social, seen that she was trapped inside it. She wants to be apart, individual. He doesn’t disagree so much as can’t see the point. Unable to engage.

And underneath and throughout, the music. Like slow waves. Direct. True.

Abhinaya Theatre Company and Topology, The Lady from The Sea, in Malayalam with English surtitles, after Henrik Ibsen, composer Robert Davidson, director Jyothish M G; Brisbane Powerhouse, Feb 24-26

RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 38

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

10 April 2012