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With two weeks until my final drama Practical Exams, tension has really started to rise…

One of my groups in particular is really painful to work with. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to co-ordinate 7 people’s lives, voices, and attention deficit disorders, we’ve kinda shot ourselves in the foot by trying to break out of the mold and perform in an alternate venue.

Usually, the second years are allowed to perform in the Box, a windowless, square room with wooden floors and wings, and raked audience seating OR in the amphitheatre, modelled on the ancient Greek design, out under the Gtown sky, with cement flooring, foliage all around, as well as some rather crappy public toilet building as the backdrop.

Our piece dealing with death and war, we had this brainwave of going to visit the graveyard, as a possible venue. I almost wish we never had. The abandoned graves are heartwrenching. One belongs to a 3 year old boy, born in 1822. Visually perfect setting, but spiritually mindfucking. I wish we could all have had the same reactions. But in true drama students style, we all overreacted, some adoring the idea of lying on a soldier’s grave, others in tears at the mere thought. The arguments went on and on, and we had to call it a day without coming to any conclusions.

Tomorrow is our next rehearsal, and I don’t think we can waste it on bickering about venue choices. Still, this is no easy decision.

Is it wrong to perform on graves? And if your piece is honouring the dead? If your piece is criticising the systems and governments that sent these people to their graves so early in their lives? Is it right to step over the physical boundaries of rocks and metal bars, that family of the dead have had erected, to demarcate where their loved ones lie? Are performers allowed to have ethics and boundaries they refuse to cross? Is it fair to disregard the boundaries of other people? Whether they are alive or have been dead for over a hundred years? If a grave is unmarked does the body in it have any less value? If the body is ancient, does it deserve any less respect than one buried last week?

Questions and questions which whirl in my head at all times of day and night, while the Grahamstown rain pours on and on and on, flooding my street, drenching the graves, washing away the topsoil, washing away the flowers, but not the memory.

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Comments on: "Graveyards and theatre ethics" (1)

  1. Update:

    As a group,we have decided to perform on the grass next to the graveyard, occasionally walking around the graves, and with a few of us actually lying in them. It’s still creepy, but I think if we perform with integrity and respect it should be fine.

    We’ve had our second to last showing, and it was pretty embarassing. We didn’t have costumes, and we hadn’t rehearsed at the site yet. Not to mention the mumbling and shuffling because we hadn’t rehearsed much since the last showing. Hopefully we will have jacked things up by next week… 9 days to go!!

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