Page 15

Curves and Hairpin Bends, in Sydney, and took the leap and jumped on a plane to Afghanistan. It is extremely difficult to find information on the history of theatre in this diverse region known as ‘Middle Asia’, and the ancient Silk Road; a place once thriving with nomadic tribes, dancers, musicians and poets glittering in jewels, along with traders of silks and furs, all bustling along the dusty well trod road. The performing arts here have evolved from Sufis with their poems and music to whirling, heavily bedecked dancers, dripping with glitter and veils, truly a land of magic childhood dreams. Theatre now, sadly, has evolved into a less mystical theatre, recently influenced by the political styles of Russian Social Realism as a result of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 -1989, and has lead to experimentation with the theories of Augusto Boal and Bertolt Brecht. All music, dance, theatre and film was absolutely banned during the Taliban regime, when computers were strung up in the streets along with their owners. The arts are still under threat from insurgents here, though they are now, bravely, taking baby steps out into the light once more. I became fascinated by two Afghan myths. One is the beautiful story of the Simorgh, a mythical bird who represents all that is just and kind with humanity, with the head and body of an eagle, the legs of a lion and the tail of a peacock. The other is a sinister creature, known as the Al, with hair of serpents, teeth of brass, nails of iron and with reversed feet – The King of Als lies in a hidden world where he constantly screams in anger. These two wonderful elements of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, became inspiration for a piece of theatre we are currently creating here at The Rose Theatre under the working title of The Paper Simorgh. We have three female actors involved in this production. Myself, Neha and the 8-year-old Medina, who is from a small village in the hills area of the Tora Bora Mountains. She was discovered by one of our team who needed a young girl to pose for a photo shoot campaign for a telephone company. Her father was recently killed and her uncle Assan is now her legal guardian. Assan is a truly liberated man (as far as the village elder will allow him to push the boundaries) whereas most of the others, even the actors, find it extremely difficult to take instruction from women at all. I am also training Neha, a young woman who works on ‘Pay TV’ in Pakistan (in the Pashtun tribal belt), to run theatre workshops and direct actors. She is 19 and will be the first female director of Pashtun Theatre and Film. She is also my interpreter during the workshops. (Continued on page 14)

PHOTO DIARY

Hellen Rose, Medina on left and Zamzimar on right. Women are not allowed to perform on the stage live or in films so men traditionally play female roles. Women who appear in films unveiled, dancing or singing are condemned to death by the Taliban. The women who persist are freedom fighters in their own right. Young girls however though not encouraged usually to work as actors are immune from this law as they have not yet reached puberty. Medina is a new star and her face is on hundreds of billboards all along the roads of Afghanistan at the moment, promoting a new health program. Medina ‘s father was killed last year and Medina has always wanted to be an actor. Her Uncle who is now her guardian is one of very few liberated men and has permitted her to work with us. This is a shot from our first Drama Workshop lead by Hellen Rose on the Rose Theatre stage at The Yellow House Jalalabad. The central actor here is Ashied. He is 19 yrs old and 3ft tall, he is extraordinary, a pixie or petit person and one of the most highly skilled performers I have ever seen. There are no schools for learning the Dramatic Arts so he is entirely self taught. I dare say he learned his ‘out of this world’, physical abilities, ducking and weaving his way around the unforgiving streets of Peshawar and Jalalabad. His speed, dexterity and timing are magical The young Pashtun actors are here being mentored by the older actors in a drama workshop lead by Hellen Rose. There are no schools for the performing arts and these children have only the chance to learn on the job from the older actors or what they can pick up from theatrical shows or films they have seen. These older actors work in both theatre and film. They are part of an award winning group called the Nangarhar Theatre Company and are originally based in Jalalabad. They are able to perform at festivals held in the more liberated Kabul, capitol of Afghanistan. Professional trainers from abroad are the only opportunity these older actors have to learn new skills. They are extremely appreciative of Hellen for not only helping their skills training but for setting up a theatre space that will also train female actors, behind the high walls of Yellow House Jalalabad. www.stagewhispers.com.au Stage Whispers 13

Stage Whispers May/June 2012  

Stage Whispers May/June 2012

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