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Blackout emerges from 9/11 turmoil

Festivals

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The turmoil and confusion that followed the fall of New York’s Twin Towers in 9/11 helped inspire Blackout, the latest work by Adelaide-based theatre producers Stone/Castro.

Director Paulo Castro says his partner, concept creator and performer Jo Stone, witnessed the terror first-hand.

“What inspired Blackout was the chaos of the surroundings,” Castro told InDaily.

“After the towers fell down, after the disaster, she saw all the people like ghosts; [there were] ashes everywhere, and people were not sure of what was coming next, what was going to happen.

“Things were so chaotic. You didn’t know if life would continue.

Blackout was inspired not by the fall of the Twin Towers, but by people experiencing the worst – the process of disaster.”

Stone/Castro Productions was formed just months after the 9/11 tragedy, and much of its work conveys a mood that reflects chaotic beginnings and endings, with an undercurrent of the political and violent.

Blackout, a tragi-comedic work which will premiere next month during the Adelaide Festival, begins with a wedding celebration on a boat, but then suddenly sees the guests and crew in a fight for survival.

 “A wedding is a kind of limbo; an intermission of happiness.”

Blackout is loosely based on the Lars von Trier film Melancholia  (starting Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg), which depicts the end of the world through the eyes of two sisters. It, too, starts with a wedding celebration.

“It’s quite similar,” Castro says of Blackout. “It’s not the end of the world, but the idea is the same. It’s very dark; the characters can feel the darkness visiting them. It’s something they can’t control, exactly like in the Lars von Trier film.

“People have different reactions – some people are extremely energetic while others are calm. In situations of disaster or terrorism, we all react to it very differently.

“In Blackout, the characters expect the worst – that the end of the world will come – and begin the change their own attitudes. They transform into a kind of animalistic mindset … human beings in that situation transform.”

He says the wedding in Blackout is symbolic, representing both an ending and a beginning at the same time: “A wedding is a kind of limbo; an intermission of happiness.”

It is described as a dance/theatre work, with Castro saying it is essentially theatre-based but with a lot of movement and a number of dancers in the cast.

The director is originally from Portugal, and his first forays into the theatrical world were coloured by his experiences in his home country.

“I was part of the generation living under a fascist regime, my parents as well, until after the revolution.

“Artists were oppressed, thrown in jail like what they did with Pussy Riot in Russia.

“After the revolution (in 1974), there was a huge freedom with arts, theatre, film, so that kind of thing influenced my aesthetic, which is very political.

“I don’t want to be indifferent to what is going on in the world. If the society is violent, we reflect that violence in our work.”

While Stone/Castro’s productions may be viewed as pessimistic – Castro says that is representative of the times we live it – they also contain a dark humour. In fact, the publicity notes for Blackout describe it as a “crazed, hilarious, tragic and animalistic story about survival”.

Ultimately, Castro says, the most important thing is that Stone/Castro’s work doesn’t leave audiences feeling indifferent

“I’d rather be hated than to have people shrug; they either love or they hate, but they are not indifferent.

Blackout premieres during the Adelaide Festival, running from March 3-9 in the AC Arts’ Main Theatre.

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