Interview: Luca Silvestrini

Thursday 15 March 2012 by Carmel Smith

Luca Silvestrini

Award-winning Protein Dance have just toured their highly engaging show LOL (lots of love) , about love and relationships in the digital age, to venues across the Middle East and North Africa. Back in London and preparing for performances of LOL at The Place this weekend artistic director Luca Silvestrini gives us a quick update on how it went…

LOL (lots of love) includes quite a lot of speech. How did you cope with challenge of different languages on this tour?
We incorporated subtitles when advised by the local British Council or venue, but mainly relied on the ability of the show to communicate through the complimenting connection between words and physical expression. It was an interesting experience to adapt the text to another language and to find a way of incorporating the written form into the visual concept of the show.

Women have prominent, feisty roles in the production – in some of the Middle Eastern Countries women on stage at all might be regarded as offensive. And equally the portrayal of same sex relationships must have been controversial? How was the show received?
The show was received with great enthusiasm everywhere in the Middle East, by both men and women. The light hearted and sincere way LOL portrays love and life online allowed everyone to connect and provoked interesting debates around sexuality and the role played by social media. The show has challenged and provoked audiences throughout and I am pleased it managed to do so in a positive and progressive way. The reactions and the level of the debate have shown that people are generally ready to talk openly about what they really think about love and sexual orientation. I am still in the process of digesting this overwhelming experience, but I feel that the show presented both a safe context and an ideal place to confront and question relevant issues about contemporary life. It also reminded all of us that theatre can use its creative and technical tools to create an accessible and significant shared experience capable of dealing with both political and personal boundaries.

Was there anything remarkable about audiences in any of the countries in particular?
Difficult question this one, as they all left a strong and deeply moving impact on me. However I was particularly touched by the Ramallah audience. There was an incredible energy in the theatre, and the horrific events in the Gaza Strip the day before the show (March 10th) made this performance a very special, communal occasion where people could both laugh and think about the ordinary in an extraordinary way. It created licence and permission to think and react beyond the ongoing unsettling Palestinian political situation. A large group of artists from Bethlehem got stranded at check point and only arrived 15 minutes before the end of the show. Latecomers generally annoy me, but this time I was so pleased to see people walking in during the show. This event was yet another example of how much we take for granted here; the idea that you can be stopped, questioned and delayed to do the most normal things in life (and going to the theatre should be one of them) deeply upset me, but it also made me proud of the fact that we have been given the opportunity to take LOL to places like Palestine.

At home, the company has been doing a lot of education workshops around the production. How have young people, who have grown up with social networking and don’t know anything different reacted to it?
In a recent post show discussion in the UK, some young girls declared that they could not think about their lives without facebook and phones. I also came across statements like: “online I can really be myself…”, “…I feel safer and more comfortable to meet people online” etc.
Maybe these are normal comments for computer natives, but it is still worrying to think that cyberspace cannot just be replaced, but that it can be better than real life. LOL does not tell us what to do or think, but it has certainly prompted some thinking around the underlined loneliness and isolation life online has brought into our lives…

LOL (lots of love) , The Place Fri 16 & Sat 17 March
UK tour continues until May – details on www.proteindance.co.uk

Protein Dance’s tour of LOL (lots of love) in the Middle East and North Africa was funded and managed by the British Council

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