Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, a Back To Back Theatre production, is profound.
Profoundly weird, profoundly beautiful and at times profoundly sad, it’s about as far away from a standard Shakespeare production as you can get. From the first moment of dialogue we hear in the enormous industrial playground that is Carriageworks, Ganesh settles into its own strange but determined rhythm. I mean that literally – the cast of intellectually disabled actors perform every line with a kind of halting uniqueness, as if every sentence is a new idea or emotion being breathed into the world for the first time.
The result is frankly extraordinary. Seen through hazy layers of silhouetted shapes, we are pulled between two worlds; the story of the Indian God Ganesh seeking to reclaim the swastika symbol from the grip of Nazi Germany, and the meta scenes enacting the development of the play as Mark, Simon, Scott and Brian attempt to wade their way through the material, with professional director Luke as their well-meaning but often impatient guide.
The fantastical and mundane share an uneasy coexistence in Ganesh Versus The Third Reich. Symbol, myth, power and belief are explored, and the piece lurches between escapist fable and uncomfortable voyeurism. At one point, Mark, an almost mute actor, hides under a table in a hide-and-seek game that will never end. Often this is the easiest way to conceive of disabled people: child-like, free of desires and opinions and at the controlling but always benevolent whim of ourselves. Leaving the theatre, I feel like these actors must all the time – the lines between reality and artifice are confused, I’m exhausted and upset, and not quite sure why. I’m also filled with a kind of wonder. In the ensemble’s own words, “We go deep into the work, we go places you can’t go in real life.” I’m glad I’ve been.
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