Sunday, 11 August 2013

A visit to the Young Vic

Two of my favourite things converged this week – old, dear friends in town and a trip to the theatre.

Back in my Bondi days O and I dedicated every Wednesday morning during that prolonged moment of ‘06 otherwise known as occasional-part-time-work-but-really-just-unemployment to pottery classes at the Pavilion. It was cathartic, creative, messy and always ended with a smoothie and a stroll along the promenade. For tense, frequently miserable days, they were a consistent weekly highlight.

After several terms we had more ceramic arte than we really knew what to do with but that was never really the point of the exercise.

So seeing O in London, seeing her girls, and then catching up over wine and halloumi skewers at the Young Vic before giving ourselves over to Chiwetel Ejiofor in the wonderful A Season in the Congo, well it was pretty bloody great.

A Season in the Congo. Image courtesy: Young Vic. Photo: Johan Persson
Lots of talk about Sydney, about work, about London, about the state of the arts. It was pottery but with wine and no wheel. And one of the best perks about going to the theatre with a fellow Australian? The unspoken agreement that it is totally acceptable to take your shoes off and rest your feet on the back of the seat in front.

A Season in the Congo. Image courtesy: Young Vic.
Photo: Johan Persson
I didn’t know much about the play before we arrived, having only caught snippets about wonderful music and choreography, but it really was just a masterclass in storyteller. A Season in the Congo tells the story of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, from his rise to power as the first democratically elected Prime Minister, to his inevitably violent end with a US-orchestrated assassination. 

A Season in the Congo. Image courtesy: Young Vic. Photo: Johan Persson
Set against the backdrop of Congo’s fight for independence, struggling to get out from under Belgian rule, these historic acts of political, colonialist thuggery are given an excessive but not improper theatricality through the use of puppets and costume noses - the Belgian characters distinguished by the all black cast through their use of comically shaped, white Pinnochio noses. It was brilliantly subversive and just so compelling, both visually and intellectually.  

A Season in the Congo. Image courtesy: Young Vic. Photo: Johan Persson
I’m always fascinated by the intersections between forms of artistic practice and history and I couldn’t help but think about Richard Mosse’s staggering work about the rebel forces in the Congo that so totally flattened me at Venice with its exquisite, dark and violent beauty. Same story, different storyteller.

Richard Mosse, The Enclave, 2012.
Still from 16mm infrared film transferred to HD video 
Anyway, for a virgin visit to the Young Vic (I don’t think meetings in the café taking advantage of the free wifi count) it was pretty bloody good. Knowing I’ll see O in Sydney in a couple of months time is also something to get excited about. Ticking “see something at the Young Vic” off my increasingly protracted London bucket list was just the cherry on top.

No comments: