Dance and Physical Theatre: Interbeing: Stories From A Current War, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

The current war in Eastern Ukraine – which began in 2014, and shows no sign of ending any time soon – is often described as Europe’s forgotten conflict, even though it has already cost at least 15,000 lives.

Interbeing: Stories From A Current War, Assembly Rooms (venue 61)

Interbeing: Stories From A Current War, Assembly Rooms * * * *

It began when Russian-backed rebels in the Donbass region began to rise up against the pro-EU government in Kiev; but director Lana Biba’s powerful piece of physical theatre is less concerned with the political roots of the war than with the detail of daily life on the front line, as witnessed by a photographer travelling with a group of soldiers.

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Supported by the British Council’s Culture Bridges Initiative in Ukraine, and by the Basque government, the show is built around images gathered by Ukrainian film-maker Eugene Stepanenko and photographer Oles Kromplias, and uses a mix of movement, fragmentary language and even song – as well as powerful imagery – to explore issues of love, danger and personal tensions on the front line, the role of the photographer among fighters, and the aftermath of war, when former soldiers and their witnesses try to return to ordinary life; there is even a dog, both puppet and real, who – paradoxically – reveals the humanity even in the toughest soldier.

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And it’s hard to argue with Lana Biba’s own statement that the western world needs to meet the new voices and theatre these young Ukrainian artists have to share; and that in a world increasingly beset by issues of polarisation and division, their profoundly humane and thoughtful approach to the agony of conflict is one from which every society can learn.

Joyce McMillan

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