Homegrown Festival – Occupy at Battersea Arts Centre: Oi Barman and Post
Battersea Arts Centre is hosting Homegrown Festival: Occupy, a four-week exploration of fresh perspectives through theatre, music and experiences devised by underrepresented groups. The various performance spaces at BAC are all simultaneously occupied by artists speaking out their truth and inviting reflection. Among these are Joshua Idehen with his piece Oi Barman, and Xavier de Sousa with Post.
In order to appreciate these productions, one must momentarily put aside notions of conventional theatre-making and be prepared to enter an experience. In Oi Barman, the audience stands around a bar where Joshua is serving cocktails. He recounts the misadventures of a newly trained barman and then the reoccurring scenarios he witnesses year after year as he works in a club. A series of amusing episodes encapsulate human behaviour, often at its worst, and reveal the omniscient perspective, as it were, of the sober observer behind the bar. Lively, engaging and humorous, the piece sits somewhere between theatre and stand-up comedy, subtly offering food for thought between laughs.
Post sets up a very different mood. Xavier prepares Portuguese food on stage, dressed in traditional attire, and proceeds to introduce himself. He explains his reasons for moving to England from Portugal and what London represents to him. He gets the audience involved by asking them about their own background and experiences of where they come from and where they now live. After describing the dishes he is preparing and talking about the culture behind them, Xavier helps spectators loosen up with a shot of cachaça and a collective toast, before inviting a few members of the audience to join him at the table.
The informal setup of a homemade dinner and the intimacy of sharing food and wine makes the impromptu performers open up, and following written prompts that drive the conversation toward national identity, a discussion on the political, social and personal aspects of the matter ensues. Original and thought-provoking, Post is based around the idea of theatre sparking conversations and challenging opinions, and this is applied in the most direct and explicit manner. The notion of hosting and being hosted is also played out literally while it is discussed intellectually.
Unlike many projects where the idea of creating a space for alternative voices is not supported by solid content, the Occupy festival has struck the right note in making people truly feel part of an inclusive theatrical scene.
Image: Post by Xavier de Sousa
Homegrown Festival – Occupy is Battersea Arts Centre from 18th March until 12th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the event’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Post here: