She performs with intimacy and passion, effortlessly bringing Mana’s world to life
Inspired by the experiences of refugees, The Other is a stunning visual delight, making much from little, with nothing on the stage other than the silhouette screen, multi-coloured lights, some props and Le Cornec herself. It also perfectly captures the perspective of a naïve young child experiencing the horrors of a world torn apart by war and chaos. It begins with the giggles of a child at play, as Mana is called by her grandmother for story time. Hearing ominous noises in the distance, the grandmother tells Mana about the Blue Planet, a far off paradise divided from the harsh Red-Yellow rock that Mana and grandmother live on.
Grandmother tells us that war exists on the Red-Yellow Planet because a great dust cloud turns men into Pumpkin-Headed monsters. That night, those very same Pumpkin Men appear and burn down Mana’s home, forcing her to flee. With childish excitement and hope, Mana endeavours to travel to the Blue Planet to escape the war. And so begins Mana’s ‘adventure’, alone, in a violent world.
At this point the shadow play ends, with Mana scrambling under the screen to escape the Pumpkin Men behind her and appearing before us on the stage. From here the play alternates between silhouetted shadow play and monologue, as Mana interacts with both the stage and the audience with her funny childish mannerisms and naïvety.
The play, filled with both beautiful and upsetting imagery, leaves much to our imagination about what really happens to Mana. As we see things only through her perspective, we are left to wonder if her childish fantasies of unicorns and giants are actually masking unspeakable horrors that she is experiencing. The Pumpkin Men seemed like a silly idea on paper but becomes a disturbing and unsettling reality on stage. Even the audience interaction, initially amusing, becomes disconcerting.
Lighting and music was used simply but perfectly; coloured lights were used for different moods and settings, and melancholic or sinister music for moulding the tone. Le Cornec’s physical acting is incredible and unforgettable, using her own body in many ways as a prop. She performs with intimacy and passion, effortlessly bringing Mana’s world to life.
The Other is imaginative, emotionally powerful and aesthetically beautiful. It is a creative and poignant response to the refugee crisis that will not be easily forgotten. Most importantly, it carries a message of hope within even the cruelest of times. A must-see production worth seeing more than once.