Seven Kilometres North-East

11 Mar

What is the purpose of Art? To remind the miserable that there is happiness, and the happy that there is misery.

Kym Vercoe’s self devised piece does just that. There are moments that are charming and beautiful, and others that are confronting and disconcerting.

Vercoe narrates her multiple trips to Bosnia, and her growing understanding of the region’s very troubled history. Her stage presence is confident, strong, yet vulnerable – a mix that powerfully evokes the magnitude of the historical events and offers a truly human response.

Seven Kilometres North East is a deeply moving and thought provoking piece.

Photo by Heidrun Lohr

Photo by Heidrun Lohr

 

One of the most unnerving moments occurs when Vercoe realizes that the men responsible for the most shocking of war crimes are probably still living in the town she has repeatedly visited. An acquaintance attempts to calm her, “Don’t worry. They won’t rape or shoot you. It’s not the 90’s.”

In the 90’s,  safely in Australia, I lost friends to arguments about what was happening in the former Yugoslavia. One friend, of Serbian background, went from simply shaking her head and moaning “They’re all crazy” to an intense and painful partisanship. Another friend, defended the NATO air strikes on Belgrade with a fearsome logic: “But we’re the good guys.”

Has theatre the ability to deal with this sort of political and historical complexity? Does it need to? Vercoe’s focus is moral, and she does not offer analysis; she offers judgement. This is not a criticism, though many might think it is. In navigating the human experience empathy gets you further than explanation.

But the piece is far from simplistic. In fact, it’s provocatively self aware. Vercoe refers to thano-tourism; that is, the touring of sites of genocide and mass death. What is the perverse attraction? And we’re forced to ask, is this what Vercoe has succumbed to? After all, why does she need to tell this story? She wasn’t there at the time. Neither were any of her relatives. It’s not her story. (Unless, of course, you subscribe to the idea that we’re all brothers and sisters. As an idea it’s dreadfully unfashionable, and absolutely vital.)

Veronica Kaye

 

Seven Kilometres North-East by Kym Vercoe

Seymour Centre til 22 March

 

 

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