Monday, March 11, 2013

Stones Throw Theatre, 'The Broken Promise Land': I Was a Dancer All Along

Theatre Upstairs, Dublin
Mar 4-16

My review of The Broken Promise Land coming up just as soon as I find a dance job on gumtree ...

American culture exerts a strong influence all over the world, as exported Americana in the forms of television shows, movies and music can travel so far so as to place Dylan McKay - dreamboat of Beverly Hills 90210 - in the dreams of the young Croatian woman in Mirjana Rendulic's new play. For her, whose country is struggling to rebuild from the fallout of the 1990s war of independence from Yugoslavia, envisioning life in America involves sitting under a tree at UC Berkeley reading Emily Dickinson, acquiring an education, career and life for herself. Despite the promises of opportunity; American immigration is a pain, and so our heroine takes a roundabout route via Ireland, working as an exotic dancer.

Based on the writer's own experiences, this one-woman performance is low-key but sincere. Rendulic is a charming act, and under Aoife Spillane-Hinks's subtle direction she carefully details her journey from the glitzy stages in Japan and Italy to the less-than-glamorous clubs in Ireland.

Rendulic's description of the Irish clubs in comparison to their chic counterparts in Italy and Japan is hilarious, with bizarre artistic choices as to have popcorn on tables and an electric shower in the corner of the room(*). Italian customers prefer women who are athletes, and the Japanese like women who are excellent dancers, she reveals, but Irish men want a woman who can have 'the chat'. "Are they all as beautiful as you back where you're from?", asks one eloquent gent.

(*) A Google search reveals that Shooters is still in business on Parnell St. 

In the play, Rendulic's character isn't subject to the aggression and forced labour that we usually see in representations of sex-trafficking. In fact, she's in control most of the time and is free to quit whenever she wants. The true aim seems to be the slipping of identity which can occur in that industry, and how fluidly a woman can change her name in a changed situation. "I dwell in possibility", Emily Dickinson famously wrote, but in this case it leaves Rendulic's character ultimately misplaced from herself. "Even here in Dublin I still play my hiding games", she tells us in her tiny flat fashioned by designer Zia Holly.

The Broken Promise Land is an important story, and some of its insights are incredible. To borrow from Dickinson once more: "Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it".

What did everybody else think?


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