What’s it like to live on a boat? In such cramped spaces and always subject to nature’s whim, otherwise reasonable people can go mad if they don’t get cooperate. Acrojou explores the idea through a fascinating theatrical circus genre that is trending – even in Lebanon.
Although we have definitely become aware of a new hybrid of circus and theater – not only in more advanced societies but increasingly in less-developed countries like Lebanon as well, it’s not fair to say that there is anything at all like Acrojou.
Started in 2006 by long-time collaborators Jeni Barnard and Barnard White, this UK-based group also incorporates elements of design into their performances, which by now have been seen by 60,000 people in nine countries.
Their design philosophy is nowhere more fascinating than in The Wheeled House, which is a makeshift nautical home made of an assortment of recycled or repurposed materials.
In the short movie clip above, Barnard and White engage in a swan dance of strife, toil, love, and sickness while the imaginary sea tosses them about.
Like all good theater, the project stimulates thought – albeit in a haze of suspended disbelief – about living in tight spaces and stressful situations.
This can be interpreted as a metaphor for the impact that population growth, climate change and diminishing resources has on both ecology and people, and even a model for the kind of qualities that will be necessary to survive such a world.
In addition to creating an aura in which people must grow spiritually close to nature’s rhythm, and rely on their own resilience to survive life in a tempestuous sea, the performance also calls into question the use of materials in homebuilding, as well as consumerism in general.
With living space on the fictional wheeled home so confined, “stuff” comes to matter so much less than the tools necessary for survival – such as charts and other way-finding equipment – and the relationship between the two people who are chucked into it together.
Having had recent experience (my boyfriend and I just broke up last night after a few very stressful weeks on a sailboat), this performance especially resonates with me.
But the most interesting aspect of this film, I think, is the very real shift in focus occurring in art house films and theaters across the globe; whereas most art in the past narrowed in on mainly social issues, now enviro-social issues are sufficiently interestingly subjects as well.
And so they should be given that they are inextricably interconnected.