Not Today’s Yesterday
Concept and Performance: Seeta Patel; Choreography: Lina Limosani; Visual Dramaturg: Dagmara Gieysztor
The Lowry, Salford [19.04.2017]
Sitting in darkness, we see a woman standing ornately. Waiting. Ready. And the story begins… a fairy tale about a far away land with ‘rivers of chocolate’ and ‘rain like diamonds’, is delivered by an external voice over and lip synced by the performer, Seeta Patel. The voice is calming and welcoming, with all the right intonations to lull a child to sleep. Although this destination, this land of nod is made of the sort of dreams that manifest themselves as nightmares for the inhabitants of the dream – almost like if the Wizard of Oz happened from the perspective of the bad witch. Except, this time she’d masqueraded as the good witch to gain your trust and the emerald city is a realm of translucent plastic.
Your journey through this land is a dance. It is a dance that you may be unfamiliar with, but nonetheless it is a dance that is gloriously uncomfortable and one that you open yourself to partake in. Blending Bharatanatyam with contemporary dance and, using the body as a storytelling map, Not Today’s Yesterday takes you on a journey to India, excavates the whitewashed history of the British Empire and hangs it out to dry.
In building a collision between contrasting materials and an absent colour palette, this piece immerses us in a world outside of the one we are familiar with. Yet, in using what resembled a curtain pull as a representation of hair, this piece immediately embodied a space that is prevalent in the lives of anyone who inhabits the diaspora. For women of colour, hair means and exemplifies a multitude of things and whilst these meanings differ for different groups of women, we share the experience of hair playing a part in our identities, both internally and externally. And when the hair is cut, the nightmare and dissociation begins…
Your fairy tale journey ceases when you are faced with white paint being poured slowly down a translucent screen. You watch it drip. See Patel lie on the floor behind it. Wait. You watch her study it and distort the clean lines into a hazy mess. You watch her clear a circle to look through. Then you watch a shadow, jolting to sonic screwdriver-esque noises. And then you are faced with the elitist in plastic clothing with a long white braid. Dancing. And telling you to ‘get over it’.
This is what it’s like to live in the diaspora. To be in an alarming and confusing state of being force-fed a whitewashed curriculum and being expected to grin and bear it. To be silenced constantly because your white peers don’t like feeling uncomfortable. To not fully know your history, heritage and the whole of your mother tongue, because the language of the history books tells you what it desperately wants to hear itself. This is what it’s like to be othered everyday.
This is an important piece of dance theatre. It is authentic and honest but most importantly, it wills you to think for yourself. And for the white audience member, this is the well crafted and challenging Dear White People of theatre.
Verdict: An exceptional piece of political theatre that speaks volumes without a word being said on the stage.