Last month On Guru Purnima (July 3), the social media feeds for most users in India created a buzz when they put our pictures of Google and YouTube as their biggest teachers. However humorous this may be, the fact that the digital world, especially YouTube, is full of advice to make a viewer stronger in every way can't be denied. Millions of people get answers to all their questions from an expert online.
Exploring the phenomenon of digital cultures and online communities, French performers Barbara Matijevic and Giuseppe Chico have invested many hours into studying the vast array of online videos. They found a host of 'how to' videos ranging from how to strengthen your relationship, how to treat your injury if you are over 65 years of age, how to turn a classical sonnet into a rap song and how to escape rape from one's boyfriend. Midway between irony and seriousness, the duo performs a series of live "how-tos" for today’s world.
Their investigation has now taken the shape of a play 'Our Daily Performance', which is inspired by hundreds of YouTube tutorials to offer exciting and fresh perspectives on navigating the complexities of modern life. The performance was a big hit at an annual summer event 'Festival d' Avignon' in France last year. The actors recently staged their masterpiece at Namdev Sabhagruha of Pune University followed by performances in Puducherry and Chennai as an embodiment of Alliances Françaises cultural exchange initiative.
With a mosaic of performances with actors, dancers, acrobats, and musicians, the play does not have a single storyline. The show is made up of different scenes, each of which involves tutorials approaching the body from a different angle. Apart from the individual challenges of conveying the story, Barbara says, the challenge of distilling the complexities and richness of a show that is an hour and a half long was organising the material, categorising and naming interesting videos, and translating them into theatre dynamics.
“We presented the material and content to the team, conducting a long audition to find versatile performers who could work with both text and body, as well as be musical and sing. The team had to finish the show in five weeks, focusing on rehearsals before the premiere. Fortunately, we found quick, receptive, and creative performers who could reappropriate the material, put in their skills, and adapt to the material. This allowed us to work quickly and reflect the diversity of the material. The challenge was also due to the time limit, but the team managed to overcome it,” says Barbara, who has a degree in acting from Zagreb, Croatia and is a founder and artistic co-director of the theatre company Premier Stratageme based in Paris.
Barbara along with Giuseppe and other artistes put this performance together in more than five weeks. Her expertise in theatre, dance, literature, and music combined with her year-long obsession with the internet and the knowledge she gathered from browsing adds a distinctive interdisciplinary background to her skills. When asked if this technique of performance is relevant to the Indian audience, Barbara says, “The overwhelming response to the first show in Pune confirms the relevance of this technique of creating and presenting artistic expression. The web is a useful and widely applicable instrument for theatre because of its universality.”
Though, this is the company's first trip to India, films like Boatman by Gianfranco Rosi, which is about a journey on the Ganga, the works of the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, and the writings of Indian and European authors about Indian art and culture have influenced Barbara at a great length. “In addition, after the performance, I learnt from the audience how much they valued the concept's originality and its creative shape. And who knows, maybe someday we will come back,” she signs off.