Word Becomes Flesh

Originally a one man show performed and created by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Word Becomes Flesh has been expanded into ensemble work with Dahlak Barthwaite, Daveed Diggs, Dion Decibels, Khalil Anthony, Micheal Turner and B. Yung. The piece harnesses spoken word, hip-hop music and contemporary dance to physicalise a series of letters to an unborn son.

The language in this play is amazing. The production stays true to its roots of spoken word. Younger audience members begin to snap at the verse, while those who are not familiar with the conventions of spoken word (that you snap at lines you enjoy) are left a little perplexed.

It feels like this show is particularly for a younger audience. The central character is only twenty seven (if I recall correctly) and there are hip hop references to people like Nicki Minaj. The choreography is almost post-modern, using dance like walking and hip hop moves. Everything melds together well. The actors transition smoothly from speaking verse to dancing to playing characters. They are all amazing dancers, it’s a shock to think they wrote it too.

I’m left wanting to definitely see it again. The entire work informs about black fatherhood without being preachy or accusitory. The words feel genuine, like he’s not blaming anyone but just reflecting on his own treatment of women and of becoming a man. I really, really recommend seeing it. Bring any new fathers! I feel like this work will connect to non-theatre goers as well.

Here’s an interview I found about it:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/under-the-radar-5-questions-about-word-becomes-flesh/

Here’s a little Slam Poetry performance that I’ve found of him!

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The Plot Is The Revolution

Judith Malina, from Living Theatre, and Silvia Calderoni, from Motus, join together to discuss having played two Antigones in different generations. I will admit I was already biased to love this production. Upon meeting Silvia for the first time (although I had kind of seen her around), she waved at me from the door of La Mama. I waved back not wanting to be rude and she bounds up give me a kiss on the cheek and asks if I’m seeing the performance that night. When I reply that I can’t because I will probably have to work at Will Call, she argues with the resident intern so we can all come. At first, I think she has mistaken me as someone she knows, but it becomes clear that this is just her. Wonderfully zany and open. I make a mental note to stalk her.

But onto the performance itself. After battling it out with the other volunteers, playing rock paper scizzors, I finally make in. I’m all abuzz with getting to see the only performance.

Seeing the two together is beautiful and so natural. The two, unified by their belief in the potential of theatre to incite political change discuss their experience of playing two Antigones. Admittedly, I know this production would have much more effect if I had more of a background knowledge on the topic. However, as a stand alone piece I find really exciting.

Silvia has almost a superhuman energy to her. We watch as she hits herself, cries and screams. She crawls to the audiences feet and they squirm uncomfortably at the suffering of the person before us. It’s all very Theatre of Cruelty. Judith similarly is full of energy but takes a seated stance for most of the performance but her energy and charisma draws you in.

A small hijink happened but I’m not sure it really hindered anything about the performance. While marching Silvia’s microphone dropped. I guess we’ll never know if that really changed anything.

Overall, the whole work felt more like a theatrical event, a moment to be present at. When we were all invited at the end to decorate the plain white stage that had been slowly altered through the play, it had such a collaborative atmosphere. They hope to distribute the once white paper set to the streets or to an art gallery. I was happy to do a few doodles. Wish I had brought my camera!

Here is a video from another performance of it.

Anyone see it? Anyone think it sounds cool? Anyone think it sounds wanky?

The Table

The Table, from the UK based Blind Summit Theatre, was the hit of the 2011 Edinburgh Festival. The work focuses entirely on a puppet and his life on a singular table, although there is a small break into what the troupe calls ‘French Puppetry’ at the end.

Firstly, this production shocks me because it is so funny. Judging almost entirely off the picture I imagined the show to be hard hitting philosophical piece. However, what I feel comes across more is an introduction to puppetry, an establishment of the conventions of the puppets world and then absurdism.

The first half of the show is mostly the puppets attempts to enact the last 24 hours before the death of Moses. This idea is thwarted by the puppets constant distractions. The first section is very imaginative and fun. It comes off as largely improvised but after talking to others who saw the production, might actually be quite scripted.

The middle section drags on a little as a new character enters. While the whole show was pretty entertaining I found it dragged on a little in the middle section. My favourite part was the ‘French Puppetry’. This involved a series of pieces of paper being pulled out of a suitcase. It was inventive and something I’d never seen before. It was nice to see the whole group work as a cohort and feed off each other.

Picture Source: http://www.nyc-arts.org/gallery/index/type/events/id/17089/img_id/10777/img_no/1

El pasado es un animal grotesco (The past is a grotesque animal)

 El pasado es un animal grotesco (The past is a grotesque animal) is a play inspired by a series of damaged photos left in a photo lab. It details the lives of four Argentinians over the course of 10 years, from 1999 to 2009.

The set was very effective.  The slowly rotating stage perfectly resembled the passing of time. It echoed the plays slow moving narrative and avoided becoming gimmicky. Stacks of boxes of photos also added to the set. They were slowly added as the play progressed

The play itself had a soft beauty to it. It was strangely funny, relying heavily on absurdism and black humor. It was very true to life. In particular the narrative of a man who finds a hand was my favourite. Starting off as quite a serious story it progressed further and further into absurdism. I found it rather strange that all the characters ended up working in the arts at some points in their lives.

It wasn’t an overly optimistic piece. It isn’t be the kind you come out of buzzing with the wonders of life. It portrayed accurately though, the meaninglessness and our constant want for something better. To make it.

The acting was wonderful and the language barrier wasn’t a problem. I did wonder though if I had missed some jokes that I might have gotten if I had spoken Spanish.

Slightly long but overall it was stirring and thought provoking. I’m kind of still in a strange trance reflecting upon my own life. I just hope I don’t find a hand.

-F