Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder

Gabi Aldor

“Strawberry cream and gunpowder”,  Yasmeen Godder’s piece performed with the Bloody Bench Players,  headed the resolute verdict in favor of scarcity, depth and risk-taking.   At the beginning we are the civil Friday night dance audience.  We are ready for surprises,  we fasten our seat belts.  The stage,  designed by Gal Weinstein,  is intriguing.  A wooden-like linoleum is spread on it, missing out on the corners,   a blue lighting strip at the side.  Inbal Yaakobi and Iris Erez on stage.  Yaakobi’s face is frozen in a scream, mouth gapping, stuffed with her hand trying to stifle the cry.  In the following moment it is the hand of Iris that stifles Yaakobi’s cry.  We still follow with interest.  A young man falls down (Arkadi Zaides), some dancers come immediately and lift him.  It is beginning to be uncomfortable.  Again and again someone makes a movement of pointing a rifle.  Are they children playing war?  The touch of the bodies creates sound.  The body emanate sounds according to the touch:  if it tickles they laugh, if it presses they groan, if it hurts they scream.  Each pain leads into a different scream Pains leading in turn to screams.  Suddenly we are witnesses in a killing field.  It is awful and terrible and wonderful (in terms of artistic competency courage).
The basic structure repeats itself.  One character lies on the floor, two stand above him or her with a frozen cry.  That’s how our daily press photos look like.  Hands of crying women fill the horizon of the photo, bodies lie on the floor, the field, the road. Yasmeen resurrects the body again and again.  It is dressed and then stripped, a whole life of play and love is re-created with it.  In theatre and film the dead do not remain on stage, they fade like yellowing newspapers.  The randomly-taken  photo which is transformed into fate is frozen for a long moment on stage.  There are moments of no movement, but it always comes back to life.
Like in “Sudden Birds” or “Two Playful Pink”,  the last pieces of Yasmeen Godder,  the subject matter is mutual dependency.  But just when it seemed as if she has already totally explored the idea of fusion of bodies of a ‘family”, with this piece she reaches new levels of pain and a non-compromising, terrible frankness.  Avi Belleli from the Tractor’s Revenge give sensitive musical accompaniment,  either harsh or consoling sounds, and reaches a final crescendo of rock music, while on one side three women dance a sort of free and wild rock, and on the other a dancer sits crying over another dancer lying on the floor.  Yasmeen Godder goes through forms of lament, mourning and shock, like a dictionary of pain and crying preoccupied with definitions and description..  The fist stuck in Yaakobi’s mouth makes room for crying, for movements of female mourning in many languages, all called crying.
Towards the end the performers escape through the theatre’s doors, and then they go on stage, dancing a little, laughing a little.  The audience sighs with relief and applauds.  Then they disappear and the stage is left with one woman only, crying out loud, without consolation, and the light fades.
The dancers do not “perform” choreography but live an impossible life for one hour.  In her book “Looking at the Pain of Others”, Susan Sontag writes about war photographs, about their necessity and about different reactions of shock and disgust with the urge to look at the horror, like the urge to look at nudity.  Do war photographs blunt us, turning every war into a “general” war?  The atrocities done by people upon other people are inconceivable.  The refusal to combine our suffering with “their” suffering was always there.  Yasmeen does not allow us to get used to what’s terrible.  In her work she enables us another look at the body,  its humanity,  vulnerability.  The power of her art makes up for our own moral helplessness and awakens us towards forgiveness.