Ryan Brown, Bruce Lancaster-Rous, Sarah Lonergan, Sara Page
Director, choreographer and writer – Cassiah Joski-Jethi. Producer: Florence Schechter
Triumphant, an original piece of physical theatre, written, directed and choreographed by Cassiah Joski-Jethi is nothing short of a success: it is possibly one of the most exciting and original productions I have seen in my three years at the University.
The four characters in the piece were often child-like, consumed by stifling confusion and feelings of hopelessness, which were communicated through beautifully choreographed movements and wonderfully executed dance routines.
However, these feelings weren’t for the characters alone to experience. The fourth wall was broken repeatedly throughout the performance, with audience members being handed books and being spoken to by the cast; it was unnerving at times, adopting some of the characteristics of in-yer-face theatre to incite self-reflection; this was most evident when the dance studio’s mirrors were revealed and the audience uncomfortably looked at themselves and one another. The dance studio was the perfect space for the performance: there was a simultaneous intimacy and claustrophobic sense created.
Memory also played a significant part in the piece. The characters desperately searched for something, voraciously read books for enlightenment, and yet still couldn’t necessarily ever put their fingers on what they were actually looking for. The dimly lit space and the use of blindfolds highlighted the characters’ lack of direction and enlightenment about their situation. They seemed to be denying themselves a crucial piece of information: one sequence followed the characters’ dispute over how an event had occurred, while another followed the characters’ fear of having to ‘go back’ to something that they had obviously chosen to forget.
The best way to interpret the piece, I felt, was to read it as a piece of post-modern art. There were several elements which fitted this label: by giving out the books so willingly, the characters seemed to reject art; they constantly sought to define things exactly by reading dictionary definitions, and their lack of appreciation for the art they owned is a typical symptom of their waning ability to affect. Moreover, one character’s cynicism towards God, and the representation of life as a repetitive cycle of a few experiences culminating in death was a clear indication of nihilism. However, as with some of my favourite theatre pieces, it was not entirely fatalistic. Towards the end of the production, the characters recollected their books, thus indicating a new appreciation of emotion, and acknowledged that they lived and died ‘triumphant’.
To look for a clear narrative in a piece like this is to miss the point completely. What Joski-Jethi’s production aims for is self-reflection. To find it life-affirming or fatalistic is an individual’s interpretation.
Whether you understand it or not, the choreography is beautiful and wonderfully executed by the cast. Sara Page is in particular a fantastic dancer, but it must be mentioned that some of the cast members have not been trained in dance, and yet moved incredibly well. Joski-Jethi has also chosen a wonderful selection of music which is melancholic, uplifting and unnerving, and perfectly matches the characters’ journeys.
It is a credit to Joski-Jethi that she has been able to cast, devise and rehearse this entire production in such a short amount of time; the fact that the end result is something exciting and entirely unique is quite frankly astonishing.
by Jenna Clake