Review of Turfed, as part of LIFT 2014

Below is an article written for this years LIFT Festival that I was selected to write for as part of a creative brief provided by IdeasTap (a great social networking site for creative professionals). I was able to learn from 11 other writers, and be mentored by professional arts critic Maddy Costa. This was a fantastic opportunity to develop my voice as an arts critic and I hope to continue doing this as I begin, what I hope to be, a fruitful career. As always, please comment on my writing, and take a look at the fantastic new work that LIFT Festival is hosting this year!


Renato Rocha Presents Turfed – Hackney Downs Studios
by Nicolas Kyprianou (edited by Maddy Costa)

‘I got my hair
I got my head
I got my brains
I got my ears
I got my eyes
I got my nose
I got my mouth
I got my teeth’

— Lyrics from I got life, from Hair the Musical (1967)

Turfed explores youth homelessness using football as a metaphor for winning and losing the game of life. The two ideas sit side-by-side in Brazil, where the 2014 World Cup is taking place: a billion-pound industry taking to the streets of Rio, where poverty and youth homelessness are at atrocious levels. And yes, the above lyrics and more were spoken, from the infamous 1960s rock musical Hair, a reassuring affirmation of being thankful for the little things.

There also seemed to be choreography reminiscent of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s, Rosas Danst Rosas (1983): the performers sit on benches, sequentially crossing and unfolding their arms and legs, and perform other gestures with their bodies. A parallel can be drawn between the feminist rage and oppression felt by the all-female cast of Rosas and the anger that those in Turfed feel when being downtrodden by society.

Besides these instantly noticed references, Rocha’s piece displays theatre in a very postmodern and interdisciplinary medium. The space constantly transforms, so that I no longer felt that I was in a warehouse in Hackney, especially at the end of the work when I lay on a cold ‘football pitch’ looking up at the ceiling, which was lit with flecks of light, like stars.

Entering the industrial hangar at the beginning of the performance, the ten performers presented images of loneliness, frustration and solitude, and I found myself expecting a lot more than what was to follow. Spread across the room, an actor skipped with a rope and an actress drew a mother holding her baby, using a piece of white chalk on the floor. The images were beautiful but didn’t seem to cohere. Monologues immediately told me to feel empathy for these people, but this was lost when a well-spoken and articulate stage-trained actress told me of their misfortune. Presumably this actress was one who hadn’t experienced homelessness, like others in the cast that the programme note kindly mentioned. It seemed to ruin the world that the actors and actresses from Tanzania, the Philippines and Brazil had created – real emotion appearing behind their eyes, reliving some of the scars cut deep into their bodies and souls as children.

I was waiting for a dramatic build but the energy and intention of the work fell flat. The performers were simply telling us to value what we have in terms of love, happiness, family and other first-world luxuries: a pretty presumptuous statement when looking around at the diverse audience. How do they know that I am happy and surrounded by love or that I even have a mother figure?

I was excited by the ‘slick choreography’ that the programme advertised. However, as the performers changed into football kits, they began a unison routine which was all over the place, often out of time and definitely not ‘slick’.

I left more excited by the versatility of the space, the use of lighting, projection and props, than by the performers’ presence in Turfed. I would encourage you to see this work and tell me what it made you feel… Did it make you feel differently about your own life? I know that youth homelessness exists and it is a disgusting problem that needs to be addressed, but I was hoping for something a little more uncomfortable to watch. The strong opening of the work disintegrated into loosely connected metaphors and anecdotes. I couldn’t help leaving Hackney Downs with the lyrics of Hair in my head.


One thought on “Review of Turfed, as part of LIFT 2014

  1. Pingback: Review and Event: Lift (London international festival of theater) Turfed | Nathan Elemen Arts Award

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