Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: That Night Follows Day

Created by Tim Etchells & Victoria

For a number of years now I have worked with kids (young people, really) spanning the ages of ten to twenty five. I have had the pleasure and priviledge to make performance work with them. One of the most rewarding experiences in this time was creating a work for a skate park in the area. At the time I was dismayed at the State Of Things and as a response to my preoccupation, I began to bring in articles to the workshops, anything from reports covering the Palestine / Israel trouble, some terror raids in London... We watched Van Sant's 'Elephant'. I was blown away by the young people's responses to these articles and by the wave of opinion, outrage, compassion and intelligence they displayed relating to the source material. They told me that no one asks. People assume they don't have an opinion. In my adulthood, I had always assumed that the younger generation was even more apathetic than mine, I had assumed that they (being the ultimate post modern, capitalist, digital generation) would not have a particular stand. Boy was I wrong. Throughout the process they floored me with their objective view of events. They were rarely binary in their understanding of complex issues. They approached each source story with compassion, impartiality and a great deal of humanity. They seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the fragility of it all, the shades of grey, the fallibility of human interaction. I have tried to never condescend to them again.

'That Night Follows Day' is such a profound use of the theatrical paradigm, and of working with children as collaborators. It is a stand-off, a confrontation, a turning of the tables. It is non judgmental, it is objective, it is overwhelming in what it illustrates through simply listing facts and memories. As many of these statements are in some way positive as those that suggest a negativity. 
These items, when placed together into one overwhelming whole, delivered in an entirely non-theatrical manner, suggest both the wisdom and individuality of children, the complex and fraught task of raising a child and the lies that we tell (as parents, guides, society) in order to protect them from the truth of the world and of humans. 
'That Night Follows Day' isn't a call to arms to let children be, its not a polemic dissecting and criticising our treatment of children, it just shows things the way they are. And the totally disarming thing about it is that you don't expect it from children. It is exactly the experience I had making the work for the skate park. Humbled and moved. The children are never asking for anything. They are never demanding anything. They just stand there in various sized groups telling us what we do (not who we are, or what we mean, or if its good or bad). Adults come across as being caring, ambitious, cautious, shambolic, racist, placating, encouraging, mean, uncertain, superstitious, atheist, rational, emotional, rushed, flustered, dismisive, disappointed, full of love and deeply flawed. 
And that we are, aren't we? 
As the piece concluded I was grieving the fact that we tell children "it's all going to be okay". Not only is that a lie, I realised that I am, as an adult, still coming to terms with that fact. I saw how much of my life has been guided by the belief that it's all going to be okay. It is, we believe, our right for things to all be okay. And they're not, they never will be. But that's okay, we can just get on with it. 
Children, it seems are much more able to accept the fragility, the futility, the deep flaws of humanity than we are. They haven't yet learned to try not to be human.

1 comment:

Alison Croggon said...

I agree. A beautiful show. By chance I happened to watch it with my 18 year old daughter, which perhaps enriched it.

Nice too to read something about young people which isn't wiping them off the map. It happens all too seldom.