Wednesday 4 March 2015
“This is a difficult story to tell,” Katherina Radeva’s clear voice echoes around the darkened room. The set is bare, but for two long rows of white carnations framing the stage, 400 to be exact. The air is heavy with the scent of cut stems like a strange, stale garden. It is minimalistic, but it has a haunting beauty about it - funeralesque. The story is indeed a difficult one to express; delivered in a fluent and lyrical Bulgarian and juxtaposed with Alister Lownie’s stilted English translation, what is produced is a unique form of storytelling, coloured with mistranslations and pauses that reflect the limitations of language when expressing trauma and soul-wrenching emotion.
A performance that engages all the senses, Radeva and Lownie attempt to transport their audience physically and emotionally to a tragic event in which Radeva’s four-year-old sister was involved. The performance paints a vivid picture of Radeva’s family, their home in Sofia and its garden- the focal setting, through simple dialogue rhythmic with poetic repetition, and passionate yet precise physical choreography that reflects the vibrant and lively Bulgarian culture.
Initially energetic and humorous, Radeva charms the audience by insisting that the translation is rendered physically as well as verbally. She relishes in her partner’s hilariously awkward imitations of her feminine movements - his earnestness bringing a delicate intimacy to the performance and a bubble of laughter amongst the audience. As the narrative progresses it becomes labored when language fails to convey Radeva’s personal trauma as she hears of her sister’s critical condition in hospital, and is unable to do anything but wait for news.
In this performance piece of two languages, it is what is left unsaid, what is unable to be expressed, that which is without words, which Radeva wishes to convey. When words and language fail to perform their task Radeva breaks into a frenzied dance in which the neat rows of carnations are whirled and scattered haphazardly across the performance space, their broken bodies stark against the black floor reflecting emotional, mental and physical fragility.
A refreshing and honest performance that guides its audience through a full range of emotions, with a beautiful conclusion delicately framed by white carnations - the symbol of true love and good luck. An intimate yet casual setting, with the added bonus of meeting the actors after the performance, I look forward to future productions hosted by Attenborough Arts (formerly Embrace Arts).
Two Destination Language will be performing ‘Near Gone’ in Birmingham on 14th March 2015.
About the reviewer
Nathalie Gannon is a 3rd year English student with a passion for the theatre. She spends her time costuming, writing short stories and trying desperately to get noticed.