Diplomatic banter: The Ballerina @khaoseurope

One person's waterboarding is another person's banter in The Ballerina. It has a short but somewhat delayed run as part of the Vault Festival under the railway arches at Waterloo. It was due to appear in 2020, but the pandemic got in the way. Since then the world post George Floyd, post dumping of a slave trader statue in Bristol Harbour seems to have diminished the novelty of the piece. But you never quite know if it's all a bit of a mind game or some friendly banter.

The Vaults is a dystopian theatre setting at the best of times. Damp, cold and with the constant rumbling of trains overhead. When you throw in a piece that includes mind games and the odd bit of torture, it certainly is a confronting piece of theatre. Although perhaps not for the intended reasons. While there are various trigger warnings about the content, perhaps the audience could have also done with a bit of reassurance that no actors were harmed in making the piece too. 

Told over a series of short scenes, what unfolds is an incident that leads to a diplomat's detainment. What at first seems to be a typical narrative of some unnamed African dictatorship detaining freedom and the peace-loving western individual becomes more complex as the line between rights and wrongs becomes unclear. 

It's an immersive experience as actors with animal face masks, music, and lighting conspire to challenge the audience to think about western foreign policy around the world. And also how little we know about the daily life on the African continent that doesn't include a story of war, famine or corruption. 

Enjoy a front-row seat for your preconceptions if you have them. And don’t mind the backwash from the waterboarding… It’s all part of the banter. Written by Anne-Sophie Marie and Directed by James Barnes, The Ballerina is at the Vaults until Sunday, 5 February.


Photo credit: production photos

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