Death Conversation with Himalayan Cultural Eve
M. Art Theatre @ The Garage International
4:00pm, Sun 14 Mar 2010
Normally, I’m wary of productions associated with Shakti’s Garage International venue; that’s a little unfair, I know, but I’ve been to one-too-many shows where Shakti herself has featured in the production. And her style of eye-fluttering dance just doesn’t gel with me, so I figure it’s appropriate to just not take the risk.
But dance from Nepal? That just sounds too interesting to pass up. And, as I wander into the North Adelaide Community Centre, I’m thankful to see Shakti only handling tickets on the door.
Now – in conjunction with knowing nothing about dance, I know bugger all about Nepal. So as the performance begins (in front of a pretty good crowd of about thirty, on this sticky Sunday afternoon), I’m curious to see what the fundamentals of Nepali dance are. And the first piece had a solo female dancer, clad in robes of muted colour, dancing with a passionless, almost disinterested, facial expression. There’s a lot of emphasis on the hands, though; it became clear that hand movements were of grave importance. The piece livened up with some smooth spinning, but that managed to disorient her somewhat, and she bumped into a separator as she attempted to spin off the stage.
Oh dear, I thought. Not a great start.
The second piece was much more enjoyable; a mixed gender group, it’s all very bright and lively. This leads into the core of the performance, the Death Conversation play, which sees Pushpa in military custody and facing torture as he is interrogated. Different dances are sparked by his memories of happier times – of family, of his people – and by his observation of the world he lives in now, full of anger and mistrust and violence. In the end, he chooses to face Death, rather than let go of the happier times…
All this is, of course, a reflection of the People’s War – not something to be taken lightly. Which makes the lackadaisical stage production feel all the more disappointing; there’s people wandering backstage at random intervals, and the offstage narrator (who really should have been onstage) was hesitant and seemingly unprepared.
But on the plus side, the two principles – Subash Thapa’s pivotal Pushpa, and the dreamlike Shaman of Birendra Bahadur Hamal – were fantastic, each providing strength to their respective pieces (even if the Shaman did appear too keen to bang his drum). They, alone, were enough to carry this performance, which proved to be an interesting excursion into areas I’d not experienced before.