Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tramway, Glasgow
23rd May

An airport lounge. Scattered chairs. A handful of people. Sprawled,
tired, waiting. A man arrives, with suitcase. He spots two girls he
knows, waves. The BIG screen clickers, letter and numbers sprawling
across it. Everyone stands. Everyone watches. Please Wait, the sign
says. They sigh. The BIG screen clickers, letter and numbers sprawling
across it. Flight Rescheduled, the sign says. They sigh. The BIG
screen clickers, letter and numbers sprawling across it. Flight
Delayed, the sign says. They take their seats and prepare to wait.

A woman sits by herself. Muttering, rocking, flicking through wrinkled
sheets of paper she clings to desperately. One of the two Chinese
women sits beside her, smiles, asks "where are you going?" But she
doesn't speak Chinese. The two try to form a conversation in English,
a language they barely speak. The woman is confused, without her
papers she has no name, without her papers she has no destination,
without her papers it seems she has no grip on reality.

The Chinese woman is called over by the Chinese man who arrived with
the suitcase. An Indian man with a case and newspaper makes to sit
down, but he is waved away by the arrogant Slovakian man. But when the
Spanish woman starts to babble to him about her papers, so the Indian
man gets the seat after all. His phone rings, she takes it, asks them
to phone back later, so she can tell him an Indian temple. Maybe it
was Buddhist? Or was it Christian? She has no idea.

The Slovakian moves to sit beside one of the Chinese girls instead.
She is sleeping, her head ending up on his shoulder. He pushes her
away, she slumps back, away, slumps to his lap, away, wobbles and
slides towards the floor before he catches her. So it goes on,
escalating, till she is hanging around his neck. A comedy routine of
social awkwardness, one of the evening main "solo" pieces, with the
rest of the company sat aside. Till eventually he wakes to find its
all been a dream.

A South African woman tries to explain why her and a Korean man who
speaks no English are going to London. Becoming increasingly
frustrated by the questions of authority. While the bemused Korean
chips in random words, having no real idea what the questions are
about. The only thing in her bag? Her father's shoes... and another
solo dance, her and the shoes, while the Korean remains seated.

As the performance progresses we go through the four elements. The big
screen clicks through the words Water, Earth, Air and the chaotic
Fire. Characters talk in their own langauges, the screen translates.
During Fire a fight breaks out, the Slovakian keeps trying to get into
the Chinese man's pictures, is flirting a little too much with the
Chinese girls. He wants a go with the camera, grabs it from the
Chinese man, they run around, chasing each other, the camera going
back and forth. Till it gets out of hand, the girls distressed, the
Korean man holds one of them back, the Indian the other. Here the
Korean has his solo, a juddering thing - I'm stuck!

Bahok is a collaborative dance piece, choreographed by Akram Khan
using the Chinese Ballet. The company takes three dancers from the
ballet, and combines them with an international group for a more
contemporary piece. A Chinese man, two Chinese women, a Korean man,
South African woman, Indian man, Spanish woman and Slovakian man -
each having their own little pieces, each working within the whole
journey. The music is by Nitin Sawhney, the soundtrack combining
elements of Indian and Chinese influence, along with clear
contemporary dance music elements. There is also mention of the plot
having been worked on by novelist/screenwriter Hanif Kureshi, though I
am less clear on that being the case.

Bahok is about the modern nomad, the urban traveller, how we become
dislocated and lose our sense of place and home. The airport being a
metaphor for a kind of limbo, one of those spaces between locations,
an artificial reality where the travel spends so much and such strange
time. In some ways the Spanish woman is the most extreme form, her
reality fractured, with only the pieces of paper she clutches holding
everything together. The others try steer clear of her, crazy lady,
but it might also be because she is a trigger that says "that is you
as well, that is all of us in this modern world, pulled up anchors and
set to drift".

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