Review by Linny
An ambitious project to present a ‘multi-dimensional narrative’ of the experiences of Empire but, in particular, the relationship between Britain and Egypt from 1952 to 2022.
The show starts and ends with an expert on ant colonies whose research eventually becomes a best-selling book about ‘connected survivalism’. It works as a short-hand metaphor for the complex and fraught issues of cultural exchange and cultural identity which attend a country emerging from British occupation. Other characters present their own narratives with that incongruous inconsistency that marks an assemblage of this kind of material. A female Egyptian has to make a pilgrimage to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone as a way of coming to terms with the death of her brother from a fatal accident during Egypt’s most recent turbulent history. He was trying to stop Egyptian looters removing artefacts from the Cairo museum. On the journey through Europe a chance encounter with an English tourist produces an altogether hostile response to the whole value of museums. To this English tourist a Coca-Cola bottle filled with sand from the Sahara is a far more potent symbol for her personal experience of Egypt and her holiday at Sharm el-Sheikh.
In a scenario from 2022, a British scientist is quizzed by a news channel about her involvement with a controversial project to bury Britain’s nuclear waste under the Sahara, with a facility on the surface to provide Cairo with solar energy. A scene from the past, by contrast, represents the total decline of Britain’s coal industry. There are no answers here to the many questions raised by the protagonists but what is clear is that capitalism will always prevail. Some of the material was unnecessary or obscure. The title alludes to a massive sandstorm which occasionally occurs in the desert and can end up floating across into Europe but the link was not clear to us even though the sandstorm was repeatedly enacted. There was also some truly amateur directorial and design input.
Review by Goubba
This was a very interesting show dealing with the changing nature of the spread of ideas. Set in Egypt in the 50s, Cumbria in the 80s, London now and the future, the group used physical theatre and visual and audio stimulus to assist in their somewhat sporadic storytelling. This piece really makes your brain work. It isn’t until the end that it ties together somewhat, and even then, not completely, as some audience members remarked. I however, was taken by the central premise of one man’s understanding of ant colonies and the status and leadership of the Queen Bee and its explanation of human social interaction in this modern world. The physical side of the performance was extremely effective as was their use of multi-media on stage.