What The Heart Remembers: The Women and Children of Darfur
theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall
(Originally published here)
This theatre/dance offering from the University of South Florida lacks subtlety and feels overly affronting in its clumsy and somewhat confused form. The addition of an almost melodramatic exposition to a topic already steeped in profound seriousness seemed unnecessary and upstaged the genuinely well-delivered dance sequences.
The piece begins with the stage being populated by the entire ensemble while music is playing: the sound design throughout was clunky and often distracting; the effect was certainly more powerful when the music was live. The expressions on the actor/dancers’ faces as they placed themselves in a series of montages led me to believe that they were deliberately trying to make this a very serious and sad show, an effort that unfortunately had the opposite effect. Sections of text repeated in unison (when the actors remembered the words) accompanied by stage combat were almost shouted at the audience and became snippets of dialogue with very little meaning as they were continuously repeated.
Effective and precise repetitions – in particular, one sequence that depicted the futility of women collecting water and the perils of such a journey – were often immediately undercut by heavy-handed chanting and wailing before the cast left the stage, and would be followed by one of those pauses that go on for slightly too long.
There were a few moments of brilliance – the woman playing Teresa gave an excellent performance, and the last few sequences were interesting and heartwarming – but the prevailing theatrical atmosphere was one of heavy didacticism and several dodgy Sudanese accents.