Technology, Greek drama drives Ajax and Little Illiad
By: Rob Alexander
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 06:00 am
Ancient Greek drama joins with 21st Century technology at the Eric Harvie Theatre this weekend as a means to explore the role of war, the connection between artists and soldiers, while turning the notion of traditional theatre on its head.
As part of the start of the 2012 Banff Summer Arts Festival, The Banff Centre is presenting Friday and Saturday (June 22–23) Ajax, and, Little Illiad, two innovative one-act plays created by Evan Webber and Frank Cox-O’Connell, designed to create a space to consider war, its effect and the role of both soldiers and artists.
“This show is so weird,” Webber said. “The situation in the story is so weird, the historical context, the present incarnation coming back into some kind of public theatrical life in context of the military usage. All these things are so strange that we wanted to understand it for ourselves as an audience.”
Little Illiad shares the story of Webber, as himself, having a conversation via Skype with a character named Thom, a Canadian soldier played by Cox-O’Connell, who is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, while the audience – limited to 30 for each of the four shows – listens into the conversation on headphones.
In Ajax, the newer of the two pieces, the audience sits on the stage while Webber and Cox-O’Connell, dressed as Athenian soldiers, sit in the theatre seats and reflect on war.
Quoting philosopher and critic Boris Groys, Webber said the historical relationship between artists and soldiers had the soldiers doing the deeds and the artists commemorating those deeds, whether through paintings, photography and song.
Modern technology, however, has altered that relationship.
“Through the 20th century and at a very accelerated pace, that traditional relationship has broken down because the people who are the military actors now have at their disposal all the storytelling apparatus that belongs to the artist,” Webber said.
When soldiers push a button on a camera or video camera during a battle, they are creating art, he said.
“If that is the case, how does that reframe the activities of artists, to be critical of that, to get us to think about images or stories in an another way? There’s a bunch of questions that emerge and the attempt to answer them is really meaningful,” Webber said.
Ajax and Little Illiad, meanwhile, is Webber’s and Cox-O’Connell’s way of attempting to answer those questions.
“Both of the shows have really been among other things, they are really a product of a long research project and conversation with (Cox-O’Connell), the director of Little Illiad. I approached him to work on it with me based on some experiences I had and some questions I had about what it was we were doing as artists in relation to things people we knew were doing, such as being in the army,” Webber said.
“Amateur or professional, everyone produces images and everyone has very sophisticated means of telling stories and has their own audience as well. In a way, we’re all artists now.”
In Ajax, Webber said they wanted to present the opposite decision to Little Illiad to see how cleanly they could make two opposing points of view.
“How much we can really articulate different points of view in a way that is both honest and understanding,” he said. “The idea of putting the audience on stage and making them the performers of the show for us is in some ways is trying to invert the expectations and the experience of the first show, hopefully.”
Tickets, $25 for adults, are available at The Banff Centre box office at 403-762-6301.
Performances will be held at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.