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by sarahb last modified 16/11/2018 03:38 PM

Joining 'Grief Party'

by sarahb last modified 16/11/2018 03:38 PM
Joining 'Grief Party'

Ania Varez is a 2018 IGNiTE resident

IGNiTE Artist Ania Varez is developing the performance piece “Guayabo” as part of her residency (photo @ Alastair Brookes)

Ania Varez is a young Venezuelan artist who left her country’s violent dictatorship and moved to the UK. The crisis she escaped is rarely mentioned in mainstream media but Ania has been using art to share her and her family’s experiences with others.

She joined Trinity as an IGNiTE resident artist in September to develop her new show “Guayabo”, or “heartbreak” in Venezuelan slang. In late October, she invited people to join a sharing session in which she presented her work.

Ania's homeland, Venezuela is experiencing a silent humanitarian crisis (photo @ Alastair Brookes)

All the elements that formed part of Ania’s performance painted a sharp nightmarish picture of her city, a place that has lost all of its warmth and safety. It was brilliant to not just watch but to actually actively take part in the interactive performance Ania created as part of her residency with Trinity.

Prior to entering the performance space, we were greeted by Ania and added to a WhatsApp group by her assistant to receive messages and media during the performance. We were then invited to walk into the space – a dark room with two rows of seats lined up to face one other. At one end of the rows; a TV, at the other end; a large lamp, switched off. The only other light source in the room was dim, the atmosphere was heavy.

Only a few minutes in, Ania invited us to lie down on the floor while she told the story of a murdered corpse being found in a park while she and her lover were peacefully laying down on the grass. This was a tipping point in the performance; by involving our bodies in the story-telling, it felt like we were brought incredibly close to Caracas, her home city, and to the terror that reigns there.

People wrote who they loved on apples as part of Ania's grief party (photo @ Alastair Brookes)

From writing the name of our loved ones on an apple, a mundane fruit that is now impossible to find in Venezuela, to joining efforts to smash a piñata, we were all made part of her grief party. The poems she wrote and read and the ongoing TV screening of the footage she gathered during a rare visit to her family were striking and raw. “In this city, laughter feels like a miracle”, “The last second of panic before you close the front door”, “Until there’s a bullet in the back of everyone you know”.

During the Q&A that followed the performance, we were asked if the stories that involved violence were too descriptive and shocking, but were all positive that they gave the show strength and impact.

Guayabo is about creating connections between places where the connections have been broken. (photo @ Alastair Brookes)

One thing felt very clear: “Guayabo” is not a teary-eyed drama seeking the audience’s compassion. It’s an invitation to connect Ania’s isolated family in Caracas and England. An attempt to create a positive link between two places that have been completely disconnected, if only for an hour. The large lamp that stood unlit in the room was set up to switch on if Ania’s mother replied to her WhatsApp message: “Are you safe today?”. We all sat waiting for the lamp to turn on for a solid minute, but it didn’t. Instead, Ania recorded a voice message of all of us clapping and cheering for her mother as a gesture of acknowledgement and support.

The 31st of October marked the 2 year anniversary of Ania hugging her sister for the last time before leaving. She marked the day by performing “Guayabo” at SPILL Festival in Ipswich.


About IGNiTE

IGNiTE is Trinity's in house programme of world-class, innovative theatre and dance about issues that matter to people now, starting conversations and sparking debate. IGNiTE is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and buy Bristol City Council

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