Life Steaming

Natalie Soysa writes of the experimental theatre project, via webcam, that she has been part of these past few months on a beach down south. Words and photograph by Natalie Soysa. First published in the Sunday Times of 16th May 2010 – http://sundaytimes.lk/100516/Magazine/sundaytimesmagazine_01.html

There’s a quaint little hotel in Narigama just past Hikkaduwa that has become, and will be a second home to 25 of us until October of this year.

The infrequent guests during off season at the hotel are almost surprised at the group running about, singing or seated on a long bench by the sea, working on laptops. Has the hotel turned into an internet café and who are these strange people lounging all over the place as though it were a home and not a hotel?

If you do drop by the Sun Beach Hotel, you will be visiting the home of the performers and production team of Life Streaming; a theatre production with an unusual twist in that all the audience members of this performance will be seated over 8000 km away.

The brainchild of maverick director Dries Verhoeven of ‘A Room with a View’ from Holland, ‘Life Streaming’ is produced by the Chandrasevana Arts Centre in Dodanduwa and will be performed at Narigama Beach to audiences all over Europe starting May 20 via webcam.

Dries is assisted in the directorial process by Caroline Farke from Germany who brings in diverse performance experiences from around Europe and Lankan Jake Oorloff of Floating Space who contributes to the creative process along with a team of four core performers. Together they have brought the performance to life and readied the group of 20 performers for the experience of our lives.

Some of us have come from corporate environments, some are theatre professionals, some just after school and others who are merely in between places in their lives – and we have all found common ground in wanting to connect with someone across the world. The performance requires us to chat, sing, dance and converse online with audience members on a one-on-one basis, taking them on a journey of the mind and the senses, discussing cultural idiosyncrasies, investigating the need for connection, for aid and the common ground of dealing with loss, no matter where you are.

A make-shift internet café has been constructed on the beach, where 20 laptops equipped with webcams face the ocean. A twin café has been constructed in Holland which will move around from country to country, from theatre festival to theatre festival in order that audiences around Europe can be privy to this performance of adventurous proportions, giving experimental theatre a new face.

The performance includes an eclectic mix of conversation, chatting, traditional Sri Lankan Vannamas interspersed with classical European tracks, questions that make both the viewer and the performer look deep into aspects of their lives they had previously taken for granted – all in the space of 70 minutes. Add to this the soothing sound of giant surfing waves crashing to the shore throughout the performance and we just might have a winning combination.

Coming from an artificially air conditioned corporate jungle, working on the beach is something almost inexplicable. Your office is the beach, your air conditioning is natural, tinged with a salty tang in the air and you’re miles away from city life. If you don’t venture out onto the streets, the hotel and the beach make you feel a million miles away instead of just two hours from Colombo. Midnight chocolate-roti cravings are satisfied instantly, guitars get played into the wee hours as we form bonds with people we wouldn’t have known if not for this production and sleeping in is a definite possibility since work only starts at 10!

I for one am even more excited about and eagerly await the performance proper. Who will I meet on the other end of my laptop? Will we make friends and converse easily? Will my alien lullaby soothe them, will our common tales of life and loss bind us for life?

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