MAA – A collision of visual and physical storytelling

MAA - photo by Mustafa Al MahdiPortraying a personal story of loss and suffering in a uniquely visceral theatrical event this October in Perth, Jay Emmanuel brings a unique synthesis of Indian classical dance forms and Jacques Lecoq’s physical theatre techniques to share his childhood experiences in India.

Emmanuel and his collaborators, Phil Thomson (Dramaturg, Ochre Contemporary Dance Company) and brilliant young musical composer Tao Issaro (Kaya) have devised a deeply moving, visually enchanting story of isolation, slavery and oppression about a boy saved by the power of his creative imagination.

MAA explores the story of an abandoned child whose mother is forced to move away to gain qualifications to save her family from poverty. The boy is trapped in a house with a cruel and authoritarian great aunt who enslaves the young boy and facilitates his abuse. Lost and despairing the boy uses his childhood training in art and transformative dance to build an imaginary world and become a powerful being within the prison of his room.

With controlled and fast footwork Emmanuel pounds intricate rhythms to traditional Indian music as he swirls across the stage in perpetual motion. In Theyyam-like transformations he moves from adult to child to powerful goddess. His Lecoq training is displayed in bouffon and mime moments which comically unleash the grotesque side of human existence.

“Jay has challenged me to use our performance art to grapple with questions of suffering and abuse,” says Director Phil Thomson. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore this difficult territory whilst celebrating the power of creativity. I’ve been surprised by the joy within our process, and moved by Jay’s curiosity and open heart. I applaud his courage to share his childhood triumph over loneliness and despair.”

Jay Emmanuel is an Indian actor, dancer and director with training in Indian classical dance (Kathakali and Bharatnatyam). After emigrating to Perth as a teenager he trained in Paris at Ecole Jacques Lecoq. After graduation he beat over a thousand dancers to participate in Radhouane El-Meddeb’s Heroes Prelude, the first dance work ever at France’s Pantheon.

After two years with El-Meddeb he returned to India for a period of artistic research; and worked with the legendary Ariane Mnouchkine/Theatre du Soleil. Last year he presented at the Delhi International Arts Festival. In 2017, he directed Biryani in collaboration with Palme D’or winning actor Kali Srinivasan and Tao Issarro.

As Artistic Director of St George’s Dance and Theatre, he has produced and commissioned 11 works, including Biryani, In Situ (with Strut Dance) and the Proximity Festival. This is his solo debut in Australia.

Phil Thomson is an award-winning director and actor who has worked throughout Australia, PNG and Europe. He is the Company Dramaturg at Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, whose latest work, Good Little Soldier garnered extraordinary reviews. In November he is taking Ochre’s indigenous dancers to India to work with the Daksha Sheth Dance Company.

Direction and Dramaturgy: Phil Thomson Story, Choreography and Performance: Jay Emmanuel Music and Sound Design: Tao Issaro Puppet Design and Construction: Leon Hendroff Lighting: Christian Lovelady Set Design: Etain Boscato and Jay Emmanuel

Lower Burt Hall – St George’s Cathedral, 36 St George’s Terrace, Perth
Season: 14 – 27 October 2017

Image: MAA – photo by Mustafa Al Mahdi