The students of International
Whip me weakly and repeat
The Other walks the audience into a private apartment. Upon entering a home, one attaches a connotation of intimacy, reinforced by the tight space where the now visitors seat themselves on the sofa, on the bed where someone is sleeping, on boxes and any surface deemed suitable for seating. We all sit and wait for the woman wrapped in her towel to speak; to perform. “You want to make me your other?” The set up of the piece instantly triggers a heightened sense of the performative as we stare back at her; waiting for her next phrase, to reveal the direction of the piece. Although there are numerous occasions where a response is awaited from the visitors, there are few made. We are placed in a paradox of intrusion within intimacy.
“Repeat after me; identity is a collective accomplishment,” as one of the audience member is invited to whip the performer on the thigh, we repeat.
Ahmed is a character re-enacted by the four performers who take turns in addressing the audience. What this does, is to open up a gateway to references like Sauron’s dark forces, Werner Herzog’s Lesson’s of Darkness, Abbas Fadel, Kefir and Claire Denis’ Beau Travail amongst others. Notions of identity as a collective accomplishment, becoming “strangers without intent”, and favourite “immortal life forms” are discussed. “I apologize that the place is so dirty, a stranger without intent should try to kill as little organisms as possible.”
The process of each performer respectively enacting or possibly interpreting “Ahmed”, throws off the audience members to bits and pieces of traits and spoken phrases of likes, short stories and possible tendencies. Fragmentation may be an approach to acting out the notion of identity, however, despite the apparent desire for the audience to interact with the performers, perhaps to get to know more of one another or perhaps to probe at an impossibility of doing so, within the Other what does take place is a mesh of short monologues, despite the audience being questioned several times.
The lack of audience participation deems the structure a monologue. This lack, announces the confusion underlying the placement into a private space and the dynamics of a performance within the private, specifically when the private is so visually apparent; with a woman in a towel and another in bed. We are “othered” as soon as we walk in, and then asked if we wish to “other” the lady in the towel.
The idea that we are incapable of reaching the “other”, surfaces perhaps as a result of the accumulation of both discomfort in a foreign private space, and anticipating performance in such a set up. We are in a wallowing in the obscurity of the other. But the references are somewhat enjoyable, not in that they give insight into personality, but more of the visuals they summon; oil wells on fire, men of the French Foreign Legion in movement by the water. They are short lived however as the audience continues to anticipate and listen.
This may offer a superficiality that lies in the idea of an identity, with short-lived meandering images, receiver’s personal tangents and the sense of awaiting more information to comprehend. But “parasitical interests” barely have time to manifest; such interests titled so as an elaboration of what a “stranger without intent” may choose not to take part in.
We are seated in a home with a set time frame as to when we shall leave and when we were to walk in. We are offered pistachios as a welcoming gesture in joining one of the performers as she chews, yet we await the sleeping figure to wake up and perform; these contradictions proposed by the structure of the space chosen and the acts of the performers maintain a buzzing in the bodies of the audience. Tempted, seemingly free willed but manipulated. A glamorous way of trying to reach “the other.”
Writer studied art and film and is now doing her masters in performance research
Reality Research Centre & Club Real: The Other
Artists: Tuire Tuomisto, Georg Reinhardt, Marianne-Ramsay Sonneck, Jonna Wikström
Producer: Annu Kemppainen
Produced by Reality Research Centre, Club Real and Baltic Circle
With the support of National Council of Arts and Tekijä – Touring network for Theatres