Barbaros is “a creative voyage through the ambiguous and inescapable relationship between civilisation and barbarism”. I had watched the promotional clip and I must admit, was not prepared for 55 minutes of sheer wonder and admiration for both the concept and the performance. I have not seen anything like it!
“Barbaros is a three-year multi-artform collaboration that from the onset has been supported by the Government of South Australia”. It develops the notion of what it is to be human. The concept of the production is the handiwork of Lina Limosani, Sean Williams, and Thom Buchanan, with music composed by Sean Williams, visual art by Thom Buchanan, set by Thom Buchanan & Renate Henschke, costumes by Renate Henschke and audio/sound by James Oborn & Sean Williams.
The atmosphere is established even before the show begins. An eerie, white mountain landscape sits starkly in the middle of the Space Theatre. There is an ominous rumble throughout the theatre and lights that flicker unexpectedly. It is clear that something momentous is about to happen. There is a loud bang and flash of lights, and we are in the world of Barbaros.
As the lights return to normal, we catch a glimpse of as figure on the mountain top. This is no ordinary figure though, he/she is wearing a mask made of seemingly human bones.
Barbaros is performed by Anton, Jana Castillo & Rowan Rossi. Their movements run the gamut, smooth, connected, sharp, jerky, punctuated by vocalisations that accentuate the movements. They are to be commended for their discipline and ability to contort their bodies into complex shapes.
There are many memorable scenes – the mountain giving birth to a new creature, the mountain crumbling to produce new creatures (skilfully presented using black puppetry), the mountain coming alive and creating life from its skirts, the creature with cones as arms, the relentless audio track, and the power struggles between the performers.
In some respects, the jury is still out for Barbaros. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I admire the artistry? Yes. Was I able to identify with all the themes presented? No. But perhaps that’s as it should be. The production certainly created a lot of discussion after its conclusion and allowed each audience member to formulate their own conclusions, which is admirable. It was certainly a talking point on the way home in the car.
Barbaros is a thought-provoking piece of physical theatre that will leave you in awe of the performers and their skills!
Barry Hill OAM