Kestrel Farin Leah gave an interview to Limassol Today on the occasion of the show Touch(ed) which will be staged at the Dentro Theater in Nicosia on February 2, 3 and 4 and at Polyhoros Synergeio in Limassol on February 10 and 11.
What exactly is this project?
Touch(ed) is a performance I created in response to being fired from a project, like, a decade ago, because I slept with the videographer (who was not fired)—but it’s more than that. It’s also a questioning of monogamy, and a meditation on the transition to motherhood. It’s a sound-theatre work that uses music and text, movement and sculpture, to create a kind of moving collage speaking to ideals and taboos around intimacy—particularly how they manifest in our field of performance. My partner Yiannis and I wrote the music and libretto, and collaborated with visual artist Dasha Sur to unearth the image world of the piece.
What is the role of the woman in this project? Is it just for women?
Absolutely not. I mean sure, this is a show about gender bias and double standards—but these are things that implicate us all, right? Not to mention, Yiannis is the other half of what’s happening onstage. This show has absolutely equally become an exploration of our relationship and how it’s changed since we became parents, and the relationship between creativity and sexuality. I think many people can relate. It’s also just as much about the irony of progressive art practices and regressive attitudes existing in the same room at the same time—how the arts are supposed to be this transgressive safe haven, but artists can still be so backwards in the way we deal with stuff. This doesn’t just concern straight cis women like me, it goes for all kinds of sexual politics and racial politics too.
What is the way or technique you work with?
That’s an interesting question! Yiannis is a sound artist and electroacoustic composer with a background working with field recordings. His process is normally solitary, and spontaneous. As a theatre artist, my tools are energetic and psycho-physical processes (I’ve studied under Theodoros Terzopoulos for almost ten years) and extended vocal techniques, but I like to work conceptually, too. So, we work differently, but we’re finding a common language through making music together. In this show, Yiannis is onstage with me creating and processing all the sound live in real time, so we’ve really had to be present with one another’s processes and I think the work has taken on a different quality because of that.
What is it that you want to convey to the viewer? And why should anyone see your show?
I can go on and on about slut-shaming—how embedded it is in every part of our lives going back not hundreds, but thousands of years; about how sexual taboo is actually about maintaining power, and keeping people—not just women—submissive. But we know all this, and still women rarely open up about the rage we feel, or the pain caused by our experiences, or laugh together about how ridiculous it all is. This is how shame works. Even if you think you own your choices, the shame is so deeply embedded that it still has a way of messing you up. I’m a theatre artist, so of course I think there’s something to be gained in coming together and engaging different parts of our brains to work through these things—in using sound, image and non-linear language to feel and sense our way around them.
In your opinion, what is the role of women today in general in society?
Well, I do have an opinion about the role of women in my field, which I think is analogous to so many other areas of society. For so long, we’ve all—women included—been passing down these inherited patriarchal ways of working, particularly of leading, in theatre. I’m talking about perverse abuses of power that aren’t even about sex—though sometimes they are—but simply about domination, and ego, and the myth that suffering makes great art. I believe we have to lead with more humility, with more care, with more of an eye towards the wellbeing and sustainability of our bodies and relationships. We can do a lot more to support artists who are caregivers, for example, and women need to speak out more. I think ultimately the work is better if we embrace our struggles together.