Winchester Hat Fair 2014 and ORKATER “Via Berlin with a Mouth Full of Sand”, 6th July, 4pm.

Winchester City is jam-packed with people and performance every July for Hat Fair. This year, like Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, the line-up was not as strong as previous years, particularly in terms of dance.

The good old British weather did its best to dampen the spirits however I still managed to get flowers for my hair and settle in front of the Cathedral to eat a hog-roast which made my day. Some old familiars returned- Wet Picnic with The Lift. Marc Brew Company with (i)land, which I have seen and written about three times now all in different outside settings. Nuno da Silva’s Soul of Fado’s grand evening piece with live music singing and a flaming gondola surprisingly failed to meet my expectations. The talent and presence of Nuno Da Silva was impeccable however the choreography was lazy. Why go to the trouble of staging amazing dancers only to have them flail around and pose looking dramatically into space, more than they executed any sort of meaningful movement. Unfortunately the strange and clunky metal gondola failed to fully ignite and the fire, (unlike Bad Tast Cru’s, “Faust”), was not particularly integrated into the narrative or choreography.

Feeling quite deflated from the weekend I made my way to the Theatre Royal on Sunday afternoon to see “Via Berlin with a Mouth Full of Sand” where a tiered audience had been squeezed between the public toilets of the Discovery Centre and the Theatre wall. The stage area was narrow but went back to the road, houses, up the street and beyond and the cast used each plane adding depth and distance both spatially and narratively. This piece was the telling of a story, with live music and a set constructed of instruments. On arrival the location and brown, untidy set was disjointed and more like a load of rubbish dumped in the street. As soon as the female protagonist began to talk however, this scene was transformed and something special shared between the cast and the audience.

Every part of the set had a purpose, it made a sound or stored a prop used to create the atmosphere of Kabul or contribute to the narrative. Blue, white and brown carrier bags flying in the wind, like bunting, sand emptied from sacks, water bottles thrown out of metal drums. A metal bath full of sand and a car door with a xylophone on it high up in the air. They all had their part to play in the narrative, musical accompaniment and special locations and levels of the three performers. Even a black cat strolled across the scene, knowing that he would bring the characters bad luck!

The characters narrate a journey of loss, pain, discovery, hope, fear, frustration, love and possibly the devastating results of post-traumatic shock through the plight of a traveller who went away not to return and his pregnant girlfriend’s frantic search for him. Speech and music dominated the performance with some emotive responses from the actors/musicians.

The wirey, lyrical tones of the violin bought this story to a close with the noise of the traffic behind us. Heightening our awareness of the hustle of Kabul and of our own world and lives that carry on whatever the outcome of this tale.

The ending, surprised and moved me to tears and tingles. Three images remain glued to my mind. The couple slowly walking away up the street, their back to us with haunting violin music playing until they disappear round the corner. The male figure returning on his own. And his naked body, scrubbed with sand statuesque in the middle of the street. Transfixing, haunting, powerful and delicate.

#orkater #viaberlinwithamouthfullofsand #winchesterhatfair #hatfair2014

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