The impact of a war can resonate across decades, with the impact upon a country and its people felt keenly through future generations. The Vietnam War has been presented and explored through film, theatre and documentary, with the focus often being on the American soldier experience.
Ea Sola's work Drought and Rain provides a voice for those who lived on in Vietnam after the war, in particular, the Vietnamese women who were confronted with the violence within their home and the visceral memories this left them with.
Drought and Rain is presented at The Arts Centre as part of the Kenneth Myer Asian Theatre Series, a foundation which supports the presentation of Asian work and cultural exchange between Australia and Asia.
Drought and Rain was originally conceived and presented with an ensemble of women between 75 and 90 years old who during the Vietnam war, were forced to take up arms against the invading forces. Trying to keep the traditions of their village alive, they became the keepers of knowledge and these tales were incorporated into the work. This current production is re-imagined with a new group of women, but the performance that results is no less powerful.
The work abstractedly depicts folk tale elements of The Sun and The Rain, who battle through cycles of drought and flood until order is achieved through the formation of the seasons. They are voiced by Doan Thanh Binh and Dang Thach Le and accompanied by an exceptional score by composer Nguyen Xuan Son and a live orchestra. Other archetypal figures of The Fiancee and Future Husband are woven into the narrative, which becomes a series of abstracted movement sequences as the work progresses.
The stunning opening sequence is gradually revealed as shadowy figures emerge from the darkness. Like memories they are hazy and unformed, imprints rather than solid images. They are slowly uncovered as a remembrance of those lost, a motif which is repeated throughout the piece with photographs and set pieces.
Sustained movement and the use of repetition informs the physical language. The choreography is gestural and architectural, using symmetry with a minimalist approach to staging. That said, there were moments where surprising images did emerge: shaking wild black hair becomes a many headed beast, scratching and squealing in a wild dance, and the application of sunglasses against a blinding light becomes a distilled picture of warfare. The dancers were focused, the unison was strong and engaged with the ensembles performance.
However, the repetition did become slightly tedious in sections and more development of the choreographic material would have deepened the theatrical impact of the work.
Drought and Rain is a quiet meditation on memory. It explores the modern horror of warfare through traditional folktale form and echoes from the past that still linger in the present.
Company Ea Sola presents
Drought and Rain
By Ea Sola
Dates: 20 - 22 Septemner
Venue: The Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
More info: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au