11 and 12
by Marie-Hélène Estienne adapted from works by Amadou Hampâté Bâ.
Barbican Theatre ilk Street EC2Y 8DS To 27 February.
7.45pm Mat 20, 25, 27 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-described 27 Feb 2pm.
Captioned 23 Feb.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
then Tour to 1 May 2010*.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
Theatre of beautifully detailed simplicity
A dying man knows a secret; he gives up the ghost without imparting the truth. It could come from a thriller or a comedy. The consequent uncertainty over whether a prayer should be recited eleven or twelve times leads to discord and schism. It might be Swiftian satire, like nations battling over which end to open a boiled egg in Gulliver’s Travels.
But Peter Brook’s development of Tierno Bokar (seen at Warwick Arts Centre in French during 2004), from a 1957 book by Bokar disciple Amadou Hampâté Bâ develops things differently. Though the play has a few, brief eruptions, and implies force and state violence, its presiding mood is of the calm of rival mystics in Mali between the World Wars.
The louder you shout, the more you have to shout even louder to make a point clearly; amid a sea of calm the slightest ruffling is evident. Here, a French colonialist sits on a chair; two actors put small columns by the sides (from a distance they resemble the fasces around a Roman axe – from which ‘fascist’ derives), immediately giving the character a sense of grandiosity; like Pilate interrogating Jesus, he’s the powerful one, yet also the weaker against the resolute faith of Islam.
Brook’s staging, with reddish cloths lying among sand, and three wheel-based trees, might seem old-fashioned were it not part of an absolute integrity. Acting in clear if sometimes heavily-accented English the international cast do not seem to act. Nor do they behave realistically. They simultaneously present, represent and embody their characters; the conscious artifice exists to show the truth within a situation, through that situation.
Nothing hurries, nothing is an effect. They beauty of the means blends into the truth of what’s presented. An actor sits on a sheet; two others lift the sides and slowly sway them, in sympathy with the actor, who seems to float blissfully in a gently-rocking boat, and in an atmosphere of peace that turns ingenious staging into the depiction of a whole approach to life, contrasting the discord and oppression elsewhere: magical Realism and style as expression of substance.
Cast: Antonio Gil Martinez/César Sarachu, Makram J Khoury, Tunji Lucas, Jared McNeill, Khalifa Natour, Abdou Ouologuem, Maximilien Seweryn.
Director: Peter Brook.
Lighting: Philippe Vialatte.
Music: Toshi Tsuchitori.
Costume: Hélène Patarot.