Orzu Arts Theatre Group
Lion & Unicorn Theatre
This forty-minute retelling of an Uzbek legend is an intriguing opportunity to gain a taste of Uzbek culture mediated through the form of Western theatre. It is adapted, translated and directed by Yuldosh Jaraboev and performed by Rashid Shadat as a Dervish storyteller who both narrates and becomes his characters. "You want to make your dreams come true?" he asks; "You want to be rid of enemy?"
It is the story of a childless king whose women can give him pleasure but not an heir. His closest confidant, the only living thing he trusts, is his handsome white horse. His sole human friend, despite the extreme difference in rank, is a young musician. He cannot imagine his horse not always being with him, but his horse sickens, his horse dies. Who will tell him, for he has decreed that that anyone who brings that news will be beheaded?
It is presented using a mixture of direct address, changes of costume to assume a character, dance, snatches of song, rhythms tapped out on a Doira drum and music on the Dutar, the instrument played by the musician in the story.
It is simply but richly mounted. Glittering cloths swathe the stairs up to the theatre where four huge scrolls hang around a rectangle of sand. The Dervish, an itinerant storyteller, changes from his traditional woven garments and pointed hat to don the glittering royal robe or the bronze war helmet of the king. He picks up the musicians instrument, caresses the horse's muzzle, and turns the scrolls to show a host of fighting men for a battle scene.
Switches from narrator to king and transitions from scene to scene are never hurried and there is an almost ritualised stylization to the structure which is made the stronger by the performer often unusual emphasis on a different word in a sentence from the one you might expect.
We hear only the outline of a story, there is no elaborate detail in the telling, and the meaning of some elements of the performance may not be clear to a Western audience but the directness and charm of Shadat help maintain the audience's attention.
Dervish plays only on Sundays.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton