#JeSuis, at Contact Manchester as part of Journeys Festival, is described by its choreographer as a work in progress, a platform for each of the seven performers to tell a unique story where the individual stories will evolve with real events.  ‘It’s like an onion’, says Aakash Odedra, ‘multifaceted, multi dynamic, there is no one solution.  Rather than them and us, it becomes us.  It’s very genuine, in the now.’  The performance is inspired by personal stories of conflict, media manipulation, displacement and identity.  ‘There is truth in the eyes of an image or a moving body,’ adds one of the performers.

#JeSuis highlights the difference in the way the media reports both events and ongoing oppression in different parts of the world.  We know about what is happening in Western Europe, but Turkey?  Look at the Economist and you find the following:

On 15 July 2016 there was an attempted coup in Turkey.  The 17 journalists whose trial began on July 24th were the core of the editorial staff of Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest newspaper and one of the few media outlets that has refused to play by the rules of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s autocratic president (29/7/17).  In Mr Erdogan’s hands, the coup has turned into the cornerstone of what the president and his supporters refer to as the “New Turkey”: a more religious, more anti-Western and less predictable incarnation of the republic founded by Kemal Ataturk over nine decades ago (15/4/17).  Under the state of emergency, the government has arrested, sacked or suspended over 130,000 people. (21/1/17).

A dim light swings in circles over a man at a desk.  He unwraps a radio from the bubble wrap that cocoons it.  A woman rips the plastic from a microphone, that has stopped her talking into it.  But it swings away from her and she struggles to catch it, she can’t find the words on her sheet of paper.  Three women are wrapped in clingfilm and the audience genuinely worries that one might suffocate, but those that are doing the wrapping care not.  A powerful male figure controls everything on stage.  The physicality of the movement is astonishing.  But in the end the four women tie up their tops, expose their midriffs and dance like they have never before had the chance to experience freedom of expression.

The dance moves between thoughtful and suppressed opposition, to highly physical conflict, at times brutal in its physicality.  This is beautifully balanced by the joy of expression.  By nature of being a work in progress, the central narrative is replaced by a more episodic structure, and yet the central premise is clear.  Everyone has a story to tell in this world, and each story is filled with brutality, abuse of power and the consequences of oppression.  What we all want is the freedom to express our own opinions and to express our own beliefs without fear of reprisal.

Journeys Festival, Manchester, 2 – 15 October 2017

#JeSuis at Contact 10 – 12 October 2017

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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