Creator and Director: Patrick Eakin Young
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
War leaves a lasting legacy and its impact on land and people can last hundreds of years. The Balkan states were a key player in 20th Century conflict and frequently occupied by different conquering neighbours that shaped the social history of the region. Patrick Eakin Young’s new performance piece
Remnants considers the parallels between the Second World War and the Bosnian conflict of the early 1990s through the memories of one family.
Combining pre-recorded narrative testimony, dance, music and movement, Remnants is based on Courtney Angela Brkic’s memoir The Stone Fields. It uses an interview with her to shape an expressive piece that mixes Brkic’s own decision to travel from America to Bosnia where she was confronted by the effects of widespread extermination in the aftermath of war, with the tragic love story of her grandmother Andelka’s relationship with a Jewish man in the 1930s and 1940s.
Eakin Young has created a show that focuses primarily on the emotional connection between female relatives and how pain, in particular, is shared and expressed. Using Brkic’s words and sometimes those of her relations as Brkic reports them, as well as Baltic musical traditions, Eakin Young has created a soundtrack that demonstrates emotional undercurrents that are sometimes mournful when dealing with loss, sometimes more upbeat or rhythmic when recalling visits to the seaside or the period of happiness her grandmother enjoyed with Josef Finci.
As the story moves seamlessly between the modern-day expression of memory, Brkic’s direct involvement in the aftermath of ethnic cleansing in the late 20th Century and Andelka’s strikingly similar experience 50 years earlier, the cyclical nature of history is made clear and the ongoing absence of, and yearning for, lost men that created a century of war widows. Yet little about the political, military and economic context of these events is conveyed, and for those with no prior knowledge of the region, it will be difficult to unpick the connections Eakin Young is making.
Jamila Johnson-Small’s choreography mixes modern dance, movement and ballet – Josef and Andelka’s first meeting interpreted as a light and sensual dance is a real high point. But at times the style is too consciously profound as it strives for meaning in a series of hard-to- read gestures and jumps, especially in the jerky expression of war as the stage is bathed in green light to imply a chaos and impact that doesn’t quite reach the viewer.
Fabiola Santana’s central performance, though silent, clearly demonstrates the fluidity of character as she embodies Brkic’s voice, morphing into her grandmother and back again, while registering the range of conflicting emotions the two women endured. Olesya Zdorovetska, Eugenia Georgieva, Emma Bonnici and Victoria Couper play Andelka’s sisters while providing an impressive range of music composed by Christian Mason and Shelley Parker that harmonises beautifully.
This production is accompanied by a series of talks, events and installations that examine the nature of historical memory and conflict, and may be useful in eliciting more from Remnants than the show offers in isolation. It is a bold and thoughtful attempt to examine the ongoing effects of conflict on the geography and people of Europe, but its meditative approach needs a little more structure to help the audience connect the military and emotional legacies of war.
Runs until 1 July 2017 | Image: Dimitri Djuric