[2012066] seven kilometres north-east

[2012066] seven kilometres north-east

version 1.0 inc. @ Adelaide College of the Arts – Main Theatre

9:30pm, Wed 29 Feb 2012

The Year of Magical Wanking still draws significant crowds, but there’s only a scant handful of people that are in the Other Queue for the Main Theatre at AC Arts. With backdrops and screens set halfway up the stage, the steep angle of the theatre’s seating creates a very close, intimate feel for us… all the better to feel the power of seven kilometres north-east.

It’s a work that allows contemplation, even encourages it – Kym Vercoe’s (largely) solo performance has a slow, deliberate pacing, full of consideration and poignancy. And it all starts so innocently, so joyfully, as Vercoe falls in love with the Balkans, with Bosnia… and, in reading voraciously of her new love, she learns of Višegrad, a large town that her descriptions paint with a charm and beauty… until we are told of the massacres that took place there during the Bosnian War.

The bulk of the work is focussed on these massacres and their effect on Višegrad; it’s not meant to be an exposé, but more of a record of Vercoe’s experiences as she explores this beautiful world so starkly contrasted by its sickening past. As she talks to locals, to the writer of her travel bible; as she visits the scenes of atrocities; as she connects with a collection of people who were so recently slaughtered… all in the name of “ethnic cleansing”.

It’s brutal, it really is. The deceptively gentle opening makes the impact more forceful; the simple set makes every additional element significant. And Vercoe’s movements are minimal, carrying with them that sense of contemplation in which we wallow – there may not be much action, but her words paint pictures that are once beautiful, then grotesque. White walls splattered red.

There are some genuinely standout aspects of the presentation of seven kilometres north-east – using washing on a line as projection surfaces for some of Vercoe’s images, the methodical and deliberate preparation of Bosnian coffee, the spreading of the coffee grounds on the floor. But the things that really stuck with me – the things that make me sit back quietly and just think, accepting that I can’t really understand (let alone articulate) the extent of the massacre – are smaller: the occasional tremble in Vercoe’s voice. The mournful eyes of sparingly-used singer Slajana Hodžić. The sequence near the end where Kym counts the women.

Oh, god – the counting of the women.

It’s impossible for me to even clumsily attempt to put into words the lasting impact of this piece. That such a powerful piece of theatre exists is cause to celebrate… but celebrating is the last thing I felt like doing when I left the theatre. What I really wanted to do is sit quietly by myself and mull over everything I’d absorbed (and humanity in general); but what I actually did was go and see The Fastest Train To Anywhere again with a friend… something which, in retrospect, did both shows (and my friend) a disservice.

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