Friday, November 17, 2023

It was Paradise, Unfortunately (No such thing as theatre) – delving into Dionysus and discovering the seeds of surprise (Outburst Festival, until Saturday 18 November) #outburst23

Raphael Khouri takes his audiences on a trip through Berlin, Beirut, Amman, Saudi Arabia, and Los Angeles to Athens and beyond in a performance that was commissioned by Outburst Arts. It’s a mesmerising exploration of the ‘god of theatre’ – Dionysus – which explores their many and varied ancient representations, and traces threads of commonality through history, through countries, and through supposedly different characters.

Transgender playwrights are rare. Arab transgender playwrights are even more rare. Yet the illusive Dionysus turns out to reflect much that is true about self-confessed theatre addict Raphael.

The use of a lecture theatre visualiser allows artefacts to be set down and displayed on screen. It’s a fresh and novel approach, a softer and much more analogue presentation than PowerPoint would allow. There’s a poetry to the rhythm and pace of Raphael’s delivery, with his assistant stacking photographs, positioning books and curating the material that accompanies his talk.

As we hear about the wide-spread worship of Dionysus and ‘his’ alter egos, we learn about the mass participation in festivals that celebrated theatre in his name. Ecstasy and enthusiasm were at the heart of theatre that was associated with a god who was trans (like so many if you check the different representations). So why or where was that history and openness lost? And we find out the link to plants, and leave the venue with something tangible to help us grow, as well as ideas bubbling in our minds about the distant past and how it compares with the present and the potential for the future.

The final performance of It was Paradise, Unfortunately (No such thing as theatre) is at 19:30 on Saturday 18 November. Use the main entrance to the new UU campus building in York Street.

Outburst Festival continues until 18 November. Check out my other recommendations.

1 comment:

Betat said...

Thank you for being a guiding light in your niche.