At the Brian Friel Theatre (Queen’s Film Theatre) was an arts conference hosted by The Playhouse ICAN Project and the School of Creative Arts at Queen’s University. “Nine Tenths Under: Performing the Peace” explores how the arts can cast light on the hidden face of the peace, represented symbolically by an iceberg (stylised in the shape of the province of Ulster) that be-felled the Titanic.
I was only able to attend one session, the Red Red Shoes Project, which explores how the legacy of the past has been inherited and processed by the next generation.
There were presentations by various collaborators.
Michelle Young described the background and work of the Belfast-Sarajevo Initiative. It started with a trip in October 2008 to Sarajevo, some follow up theatre residentials at Queen’s University in 2009, a photographers’ exchange in April 2010, and more recently in June 2011, participating at a festival in Sarajevo.
The main point that I took from Michelle’s presentation was her motivation to explore how the arts can document a conflict.
Ales Kurt described the work of the Aparat Theatre Sarajevo as an opportunity to help its society, in addressing their recent wars as well as issues in the postwar period. He said that peace is only the beginning of a new process; the task is to find solutions, on a long, sometimes depressing, road.
In their productions for children audiences, Ales explained how important it is to include the parents and teachers, because of the discussions that will happen beyond the performance. Meanwhile, Aparat Theatre also has performances just for adult audiences, to purposefully provoke political discussion. So far, Aparat Theatre have had positive feedback, regardless of the audience member’s religion or ethnic background. Ales attributes this partly due to the fact that they are attempting to provide a platform to have these discussions that sections of political society ignore.
Belma Lizde-Kurt, also with Aparat Theatre, described how she made a transition to theatre directing in order to “step out of my country’s oppressive environment”; she tired of the staid structures of acting. Belma was appalled at the approach she saw towards children, as something from the 1950s not the 21st century. She was particularly offended by the original story of Pinnocio, which paints children as badly behaved and needing punishment. Instead, she adapted the story so that the adults in society are criticised, and particularly on taboo subjects like pedophilia and violence within families.
Anna Newell described the variety of work at her organisation, Replay Belfast. She argued that hearing other people’s stories can be a catalyst to unlock a process of dialogue. (She mentioned the word “catalyst” frequently.) The Red Red Shoes Project is a play for children that takes place in an environment of conflict — “so very near, so very far away” — which ends up in a contest between red shoes and black shoes.
We were invited to view an installation in the theatre that showcased this project, which included a projected video of the various children and their involvement in the process.
I was impressed by all of this work. Although some of the subsequent Q&A discussion was “art talk” that I didn’t quite comprehend, I was glad to be in attendance for those remarks in regards to public policy. I drew relevant reference to my organisation’s work in the Forum for Cities in Transition, and took the opportunity to introduce myself to various people during the breaks.