The Song Of An Emigrant

Farm In The Cave
Liverpool Everyman (14th-15th October 2007)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

On paper, this production seemed to promise so much. It would be a study of migration - a subject that's always topical - which would entertain and educate with its traditional Czech songs and brand new dance routines. Unfortunately, when it came to the night itself there was something missing.

There can be no doubting the skill of the performers, who showed great levels of agility and coordination as they threw themselves across the stage for an hour. Excellent use was made of their metal wagon, which was the basis of a percussive soundtrack that was added to be every footfall. However, when the piece finished, I was no wiser about the conditions that migrant workers suffer, because Farm In The Cave abandoned any idea of a story, preferring instead to focus on 'energy' and 'vibrations', in the words of director Viliam Docolomanský.

This immediately presents a problem when the audience is unfamiliar with the eastern European dialects on show. If we can't relate to the language, and the body language of the actors is deliberately non-representational, then all the energy and vibrations in the world aren't going to help us get to grips with the story. In a post-performance question and answer session, Docolomanský rejected narrative entirely, on the grounds that "everyone will have their own interpretation".

Of course there is an element of truth to this. We all have different DNA, and we have all had different life experiences, so we all perceive works of art in different ways. But if an artist throws up their hands and doesn't even try to convey a message, it is clear that the artist lifestyle is far more important to them than the subject matter. Proposing to create a piece on migration becomes just another meal ticket. The audience is left with a tale full of sound and fury, signifying next to nothing.

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Comment left by Leo Singer on 29th October, 2007 at 23:19
Thanks for the review! I probably both agree and disagree. It is hard in 2007 to demand from actors to go back to the tradition of social-realist theatre conveying a rather clear message. It is even harder to ask this from a physical theatre such as the Czech Farm in the cave (capacity of such theatre school to tell narratives/clear messages are simply limited by its very nature...) I would rather suggest to accept what already exists as new and obviously vital form of arts practice. Perhaps we should try to find a socially relevant message inside this form and with respect to its own principles! Having said that I dont mean that realist theatre is a matter of past... non-improvised and well structured play can provoke much deeper emotions/thoughts than a shallow piece pretending to be the most uptodate/postmodern etc...Comming back to the question how to find a socially relevant/political meaning of the play when the actors dont tell us 'what it was'? Hmm, what about asking the person/s sitting next to me?...

Comment left by Adam Ford on 30th October, 2007 at 20:08
Hmmm. Well just because a certain style of theatre (or any other art form for that matter) isn't popular at the moment, doesn't mean that reviewers shouldn't point out the limitations of what is fashionable. That said, non-representational artists can convey a lot of meaning in their work. The point is that this group chose not to convey anything in particular, and the form of dance flowed from that.

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