Danish theatre group performs for peace

16 Jun 2009

Danish theatre group performs for peace

KABUL - The curtains open to applause, giving way to 10 musicians performing, ostensibly, at a wedding. The men and women, all European one judges by their accents, sport salt-and-pepper wigs, glasses with black rims and, for some strange reason, large noses and moustaches.

Detailed attention is also paid to costumes: the men are dressed in large coats and trousers, while the women, out of respect for their audience, are draped in full-length dresses and nylon stockings.

Batida, a Danish theatre group, are enacting 'Grande Finale' for Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC), their fourth performance since they arrived in Kabul to entertain the families of Afghanistan.

Katrine Wallvik, the play’s director, watches her troupe, from the stands, gauging the reactions from an audience she is beginning to get familiar with.

“Our goal is to bring some hope and joy to the people of Afghanistan through the medium of art. We want to spread the message of love and the importance of accepting people’s differences,” said Ms Wallivik.

The message is one that is basic and intelligible, relayed through a plot that revolves around an orchestra who arrive at a wedding, only to find the bride missing. Tensions rise among the group, until two of the musicians decide to resolve their differences and, instead, marry, when the bride fails to show up.

But, according to its cast, they conveyed the larger and, more pivotal, message by simply showing up in Afghanistan.

“The meeting between the audience and us is important as we watch each other and build bridges. Through the play we are also showing our culture to them, but not in an offensive way. For instance, we have female actors on stage who dance and sing. This could give inspiration to small girls. It’s not our decision to tell them what to do…but at least they know it is there,” said Soren Valente Ovesen, a 58-year-old member of the troupe.

Although Mr Soren has travelled with the troupe to 20 countries world-wide, this was the first time he was performing in a conflict-zone.

“Only one cast member refused to come to Afghanistan. But I’m not scared. I really wanted to come here,” said Mr Ovesen confidently.

Ms Wallvick said her strong desire is to meet Afghans helped overwhelm her fear of the unknown: “In the West we have prejudices and misunderstandings about Afghanistan: how things are…how the people are. Now that we’ve met with the locals here, one realises that essentially people are the same around the world.”

The people might be the same, but audience reactions always vary from country to country, according to the troupe. Ms Wallvick believes it takes "around 15 minutes for Afghans here to understand the concept, before they begin to enjoy themselves. I've also noticed they laugh at certain scenes that might not necessarily be as funny to, say, someone back home, in Denmark."

Among those who watched today's performance was Rehmat, a 16-year-old circus artist. "I really liked the way the music connected with the story and the movements of the actors," he said.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA

Website: Batida Theatre Group 

Website: Mobile Mini Circus for Children