And now for something slightly different: Near Gone
I recently reviewed the play Near Gone for my university paper, The Badger. It is also available on the Badger website here.
The stage is empty. Empty, except for thirteen bouquets of white carnations spread across the floor on each side of the stage. Most of these flowers will not survive until the end of the show. A woman and a man, who had been sitting in the front row, get up.
They are wearing plain, grey but formal clothes. She starts telling her story. She speaks in Bulgarian.
She is agitated and gesticulates a lot.
He is calm and composed.
“This is a difficult story to tell.” It is indeed. It is a story about fear, uncertainty and pain; about the limits of language. It is also a true story.
In Near Gone, Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie (together they are known as Two Destination Language) share the grief they experienced through experimental theatre, dance and song.
The nature of tragic event is not that important.
The important things are the things that aren’t said. Katherina’s interrupts her account regularly and, for no apparent reason, starts to dance to Goran Bregovic’s pop-hit Kalasnikov.
Before the music starts, Alister hands her two bouquets of carnations, stands aside and watches.
It’s a fast, happy song and she completely lets go, shaking her entire body. Yet something feels off; her facial expression does not match her movements.
The flowers she clutches onto start breaking.
Soon the stage is covered in stems and blossoms.
With every repetition, the dance gets more intense and desperate.
The main theme of Near Gone is the insufficiency of language to express the deepest emotions.
In the Q&A session following the performance, Radeva revealed: “There was no way I was going to tell this story in English.”
The almost Brechtian translation puts a certain distance between her and the audience (unless they understand Bulgarian).
This not only makes us think about the difficulty of expressing ourselves, but also helps her make herself vulnerable and tell her story.
The idea of using music and dance to express emotions that can’t be put into words is not new or original, but is used to great effect. The songs (including a beautiful, Eastern European cover version of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day) are well chosen and effective.
The music and dances are the primary source of entertainment, but also full of meaning.
The flowers, a metaphor for death, further add to this.
Scattered across the stage in a chaotic mess, they reflect Katherina’s interior.
The performances were very strong and, above, all extremely honest.
The way they tell their story feels intimate and candid; they’re not hiding anything. Their charm and charisma (particularly Radeva) also prevent Near Gone from being depressing. Despite the heavy subject matter, there are moments of levity and the overall tone is one of hope.
After the performance, the audience was prompted to take a few of the flowers home.
This is a nice gesture and a souvenir of an intriguing evening.
Eventually, the symbol of death and grief brightens up numerous homes.