Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel prize in literature. Chernobyl Prayer is a novel that explores the devastating history of the Chernobyl disaster. The novel is a collection of testimonies from survivors - Clean up workers, residents. Firefighters, resellers, widows, orphans - crafting their voices into a haunting oral history of fear, anger and uncertainty, but also humour and love. A chronicle of the past and a warning for our nuclear future. We crafted these monologues into stage texts, altering the verbatim to reach the raw essence of what is being expressed in order to enhance the relevance. It gives us freedom of interpretation, as it is an event that happened but was never fully described and understood even by the people who were severely affected. We wanted to echo the voices of the people affected by the Chernobyl disaster. What we created is a bare picture of a human who fears and loves, who somehow reaches a deeper sense of living as a consequence of disaster.
As directors there were two cohesive styles at hand, influenced by Ariana Mnouchkine and Pina Bausch, as well as the style and approach from Performance Art which stems from Marina Abramovic. On elf which is experimenting with the lyrical side of prose; by condensing the texts to its essence and by working with it, for example by editing the text and disregarding any information that does not add to the objective of the sections as well as highlighting any words that describe the emotional drive of the sections and then transforming this essence into strong physical and emotional outcomes.
To enhance this approach we are to create a space which is clear of any naturalistic visual references that would potentially distract from the performers actions. The visuals are no direct representation of Chernobyl itself however, they exist in the realm to activate the imagination of the audience. A space that seamlessly merges all three givens of time; past, present and future and the correlation of this should be explored by the audience. The most significant themes we have chosen to explore are; ‘helplessness’, ‘decay and destruction’, ‘the invisible enemy’ (radiation) and this idea of nature reclaiming its destined space over human built infrastructure.
Set design explores this by presenting a non-realistic space that is the core of destruction. Burnt papers on stage show how human heritage is easily lost and manipulated with the dangers of atomic and nuclear powers, as well as general miscommunication due to modern media misrepresentation. Lighting design will focus on juxtaposing the ‘decay and destruction’, it will explore how helplessness becomes acceptance and will enhance the physical visuals created by the performer.
Sound design will lay as the foundation of ‘decay’ presenting industrial collapse, it will be bold, raw and sharp, in order to unsettle the audience. The sound will develop throughout the performance to a point of distortion which becomes as unbearable as the consequences of radiation. Using the panning effect and crossing over between speakers, sound will travel across the space. We will also work with highs and lows within the frequency of the sound to give the effect of sound becoming lost and further dispatched.
We will explore the impacts of these chosen themes through the performers by their emotions and physically exploring repetitive movement sequences. The movement and physical approach is basedon simple everyday gestures however we play with the tensions in between by looking at them through a magnifying glass and exploration through repetition and durational endurance.
Costume will explore creating a unified sense, which will mirror the geopolitical system of the time. The material used will focus on showing the tenderness of the skin and then also the vulnerability of the human body.
The Black Story is an ongoing process. Each time seen or played it can offer new aspects of looking at issues and how the show translates itself.
Harry George Bailey