The multi-disciplinary performance by an all-female ensemble from Malta, Mara highlights the stories from some of the most pioneering women of the past.
Framed and directed by the electronic-acoustic music of sister duo The New Victorians (Bettina and Philippa Cassar), the show bring together stream-of-consciousness novelist Virginia Woolf, her friend and composer Ethyl Smyth, women’s suffrage movement activist Emmeline Pankhurst, deaf and blind political campaigner Helen Keller and Cornelia ten Boom, the Dutch woman who saved hundreds of Jews with her father in their home.
Upon entering the venue, recorded excerpts resound from these figureheads of history. The cast of eight sit with their backs to the audience, passing around newspapers, while the lyric “storytellers rule the world” is sung. The ensemble stand in a circle, rotating one by one, depicting a clock. In a later section, Ethyl rides a bicycle; one actor laying down with her legs and feet raised (the seat) the other becoming handlebars.
In some parts, the combination of pounding music with the storytelling techniques feels a little aurally overwhelming, but there are stand-out elements, like Michela Farrugia’s moving ten Boom, who lost members of her family after being betrayed by a Dutch informant. Moreover, the actress portraying a Gestapo officer is cruelly intimidating, while the performer who depicts Ethyl Smyth is fervent and animated, her fellow cast members presenting the disapproving parents.
Credit is due to Mara on its originality of performance and devising concept, the company packing in a large amount of information without it turning tedious; their vocal projections are also noteworthy. Additionally, the collective’s movements are directed well; one striking scene includes a large piece of gauze billowing, behind which the silhouettes of the actors are seen in protest.
The women’s strength in fighting for freedoms of expression and basic human rights, standing their ground in the face of fascism and discovering light in a world of utmost darkness are presented powerfully, leaving the audience with a little more learned on the lives of the individuals who changed the world forever.
Photo: The New Victorians
Mara is at the Crescent from 27th February until 3rd March 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Mara here: