“BaBeL is a spectacle born out of biblical mythology. A homage to each unique human identity. A song to the richness of diversity. A celebration of the languages of all the inhabitants of earth.”
A beautiful, rough, raw, crazy impossibility of show pulled together in two weeks, by international maestro Younes Bachir, a Belgium director renowned for creating amazing large-scale site-specific works, or works designed to be seen from within crowds of thousands.
I was exhilarated from the first moment. The music so loud, the incongruous setting. We are on an old bowling green, next to a thoroughfare of hundreds of cars, with a run of construction and fences in between. The city lights are behind us. The dense flats of bourgeoisie apartments overlooking the squat old building. There is something very delightfully unsettling about art being out of place, without permission.
There is a giant sheet hanging off the building for projections, a cluster of performers on a rooftop, moving in rough ensemble. It’s all kinda cool. And then I realised what was the footage they were showing me. The burnt out streets of Syria. Bombed into a state that we will never recognise. The first truths of this performance began to hit home.
A man, painted in mud, carrying a flaming torch. This is a very old archetype. The messenger, who has escaped hell to tell us the truth. That he kissed god in the trenches, in the flesh and the intestines, in the darkest corners of humanity he moved closer to god, and that was not a blessing, it was a brutality.
The performers are now pulled into the sky, suspended on a truss dangling from a 40 metre crane. That is really, really, high. It’s all quite spectacular.
They fall off the crane, dangling on the thinnest of spider web lines, tens of metres high. The simple projection of writhing seas and the juxtaposition of these bodies struggling in air was so, so effective. It’s so easy to forget, to distance oneself from the harsh realities of refugees. We are so safe here.
They pull their bodies into an almond shape, and a projected eye blinks, watching us. Watching them.
A final vision. #kidsoffnauru. We are all called to bear witness.
This show is a stunning, raw call to remember the tower of Babel, built of the bodies of humanity. The tower was a greedy attempt to meet god in his own house, to build a monument that went all the way to heaven. So full of pride, and hope. But none of those building can understand each other; we think we cannot understand each other because we speak in different tongues. But the languages of the heart are universal.
Art like this is so important. These are stories that are so important. Art like this reconnects us, to ourselves, to each other, to the children of strangers who need our help.
Nadia Jade saw BaBel on its one-night-only on 17 October 2018. BaBel was presented by Backbone, and co-presented by Vulcana.
Director | Younes Bachir
Images | Morgan Roberts