By Alex Genty-Waksberg, Pomona College
November 23, 2013
Last night I went to a performance at the National Theater called Anticodes. The production was put on by the company Laterna Magika and was based on a book of visual poetry written by Vaclav Havel. I had no idea about the play until my friend on the program, Nikki, recommended that I go with her. Being constantly flooded with everything film and in need of a theatrical fix, I enthusiastically agreed. In addition, I had just finished reading Havel’s collection of short plays as well as a collection of letters that he wrote his wife while imprisoned, a particular enlightening read.
We arrived in a sizable theater with very comfortable seats, so I was already sold. I wasn’t sure whether there would be an English translation or not, but Nikki had told me it would be fine. As it was, there was very little to translate. The theater piece was a collection of music and dance sequences, while using interactive technology. This is a terrible description, but it’s difficult to describe exactly what the performance entailed. The main performer sat at his desk and typed on a typewriter for much of the play. The typewriter was hooked up to a large screen on stage, which showed the letters he was typing, while dancers moved to the beat of the typewriter. At another point, the main performer walked across the stage as letters fell down the screen. The falling letters would stop at the man’s umbrella, as though it were really raining letters. The performance definitely loses something in translation- the main point is that I highly recommend seeing this performance for yourself.
I became lost in the play and remembered why I loved theater so much. The stage was so alive, so vibrant, and we as an audience were members of the performance as well. Sounds of the ocean surrounded me as the main performer looked at the screen in front of him, one filled with the waves of the ocean. At that moment, I assume everyone in the audience was thinking something different, most people’s minds were probably just wandering to whatever the waves caused them to think to. There’s something fantastic about that.
The coolest part of the performance actually happened after it was over. For forty or so minutes after the performance, the main performer took the audience through the technology used in the show. He let audience members use the interactive screen and type on the typewriter, which was hooked up to the screen. He explained that some of the performance was made possible with an infrared camera, which he could not demonstrate because the lights had to be specifically setup (the umbrella sequence was done with the camera).
Nikki pointed out what a great treat it was to see the “man behind the curtain” after the performance, saying that she preferred art that wasn’t pretentious, but rather that which is accessible. I couldn’t agree more. The show very well could have been a pretentious piece put on to make everyone feel stupider, but they did no such thing. They allowed the audience in on all of the secrets and, because of this, enriched the whole experience. I’d love to check out more performances that come out of Laterna Magika. This may be a strong word, but I was dazzled by what I saw on stage, even if I had no idea what to interpret from it. I suppose that’s when art is really successful. When it’s enjoyable enough that there’s no need to “get” it. Instead, you can just be engulfed in it, like among the waves of the ocean.