Saturday, 17 June 2017
Created And Directed by Patrick Eakin Young
Based On The Memoir The Stone Fields By Courtney Angela Brkic
Composed by Christian Mason and Shelley Parker
Beneath The Surface
When terrible events occur, it can feel to those involved that the world is divided up into those who have gone through such trauma and those who have not, with no bridge to cross over from one to another.
Remnants combines real-life verbal testimony, dance, original electronic music and Balkan folk song to give a very particular history of a family in Croatia and Bosnia Herzogovina.
It is based on the family history and experiences of a first generation American, Courtney Angela Brkic, whose father and relatives endured the Second World War in Sarajevo and then saw both within the country and from the vantage point of the USA, the collapse into civil war in the 1990s and its aftermath.
The remnants of the title are both the clothes of the massacred and the individual and communal memories of lives - and deaths - stretching back to the Second World War and all are excavated during the course of the performance.
Created and directed by Canadian Patrick Eakin Young, a cast of five evoke the double layered tale of the 1940s and the 1990s.
Fabiola Santana is Brkic's representative on stage with close cropped hair and angular choreographed movements (choreography by Jamila Johnson-Small) which also convey the dislocation of the land of her childhood visits.
The recorded words of Brkic bear witness to her own literal part in the excavation as a forensic archeologist after the late 20th century civil war which ripped the country apart set against her grandmother's and father's lives in the Balkans and America.
Starting from Brkic's relationship with her father, the piece moves fluently between the young woman's work as part of the forensic team trying to identify the human remains and clothing of the Srebrenica massacre victims.
Brkic's words and projections of family photographs also lead us back to the village in Herzogovina of her father, uncle and grandmother. The four sisters, played by Emma Bonnici, Victoria Couper, Eugenia Georgieva and Olesya Zorovetska are introduced using music, percussion and haunting voices in song.
With musical direction by Jamie Mann, a soundscape by Alex Groves and electronic music by Christian Mason and Shelley Parker, the cohesions and factures of the family are then traced after the narrator's widowed grandmother moves to Sarajevo with her two young sons. In the city she strikes up a relationship with the son of a Jewish shopkeeper before the catastrophe of the second World World War and a fate which reflects back on the civil war of the 1990s.
The story is outlined with sensitivity with an abstract black and white set lit by Burke Brown and designed by Ana-Ines Jabares-Pita, with minimal props but enough to conjure up the ways in which women were left without any certainty about the fate of their husbands, sons and other male relatives.
While the production is smooth and abstract, it's a raw, horrific story and sometimes one longs for a little more context even if the tale of an individual family draws us in.
There are a series of events and an exhibition accompanying this piece and the affecting performance does feel like a threshhold stimulating a curiosity to find out more and it is careful not to try and bridge the divide with sentimentality.
It's a compact and clear meditation taking us beneath what might otherwise seem like cliché and we give it an amber/green light.