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August 21, 2012

Event: “Crossings” by The Necessary Stage and TRAFIK
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Run: 16th – 19th Aug 2012

Unfamiliar Journeys

If theatre is the quintessential collaborative artform, then inter-cultural collaborative efforts between theatre groups from different countries take the notion a step further.

“Crossings”, as part of the Esplanade’s “The Studios” season, is a multidisciplinary collaboration between The Necessary Stage and Croatian theatre collective TRAFIK.

It attempts to explore the idea of communication, or more specifically, connection between individuals and between cultures.

The show is loosely categorised into five parts – Encounters, Couples, Tsunami, Myth, and Crossings, and although there isn’t a true narrative thread that links all the segments chronologically, they all inherently carry the common themes of communication and connection.

We learnt from the post-show dialogue that the individual disparate scenes were brainstormed months ago, and from the wealth of material the teams from TNS and TRAFIK sat down and selected the ones which they felt were the strongest and which deserved inclusion into “Crossings”.

Many of the scenes in “Crossings” were rather abstract, and it wasn’t easy to make sense of everything, especially so when scenes such as the ones on Gabriele D’Annunzio and Mama Fiume required a firm and thorough grasp of the history of Rijeka, where TRAFIK is based.

The easiest comparison one would reach for would be TNS’s “godeatgod”, performed earlier in March this year, as both “godeatgod” and “Crossings” seem to be a pastiche of oftentimes unintelligible theatre.

However, I personally felt that “Crossings” made a slightly better connection with me, and one particular bright spark which I thoroughly enjoyed was the wordless but immensely beautiful dance sequence in the second segment “Couples”, which told of the story between a loving couple and a third party that comes in the way.

Sharda Harrison must be singled out for her remarkable stage presence, and was definitely a joy to watch the entire evening with her wonderfully emotive acting and captivating dancing.

In my opinion, she was largely responsible for holding the show together.

The “Mama Fiume” segment, performed by Edvin Liveric, sadly failed to resonate as its cultural and historical significance was probably lost on most of us who were unfamiliar with the history of the seven states that ruled Rijeka in the 20th Century, plus the fact that it was hard to detract from the fact that here was a guy in heels standing in front of us literally pulling flag after flag out of his underwear and stuffing them in his mouth.

But such was the curious and sometimes unpredictable nature of “Crossings”, which at times left you bewildered, and at other times mesmerised.

Journeys, especially the meaningful ones, are never easy, but therein lies the beauty of exploration.

And in a collaborative attempt like this to bridge the crossing between two disparate cultures, if anything, you’d have to credit TNS and TRAFIK for even daring to take the first steps.

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