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Fringe notes (4): The politics of bricks and hula hoop #edfringe

Can a hula hoop number be political? To my surprise, the answer is 'yes'. At least as it is boldly and with circus-like bravado performed by one of the members of the women's group Briefs Factory. Here at the Edinburgh Fringe this Australian group draws packed houses with the feminist variety show Hot Brown Honey. A loud, challenging and also visually overwhelming spectacle that prompted spontaneous cheers from many young women in the audience.

It can be described as an amalgam of song, dance, comedy, acrobatics and a touch of striptease presented on solid hip-hop beats. All in a way that defiantly turns the once male-dominated seduction of yesteryear into a both verbal and physical demonstration of women's pride. Is that political? 'Fighting the power never tasted so sweet', they sing. That says it all.


You have to be at the Fringe to witness an equally political but otherwise utterly contrasting event right after it. Catapulted back to the protest movement in Maidan Square in the Ukrainian capital Kiev in 2014 in an old church. Raw, lyrical and passionately immersive theatre. We, the audience in the middle of the protesters, dancers and musicians. Participating at long tables in a meal shared around. Suddenly startled when activists rush everyone aside because the tables and wooden benches are needed to erect barricades.

We see confrontations with soldiers, there are carried chants, there is rousing Balkan klezmer gypsy music with punk drive. Above, all around, large projection screens with newsreel footage of the real protests of the time against the corrupt government and its pro-Russian policies. A pro-European popular movement that would lead to the resignation of President Yanukovych. Soon after, Russia annexed Crimea and fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine.

Counting Sheep is a kind of theatrical re-enactment of that passionate uprising. A "guerrilla folk opera" is what Mark and Marichka Marczyk call it. This Canadian-Ukrainian duo experienced the events first-hand and are now the creative brains behind this performance, which has already caused a stir in several countries. It is a way of letting the audience experience the events of the time more intensely and directly than in an ordinary theatre performance. The solidarity, the joy and anger, the grief and also the mourning for the victims who fell. Celebration and struggle in an emotional tangle, making Counting Sheep a simultaneously exhilarating and eerie event.


Because not only is it an impressive ode to that rebellion of the past, it simultaneously makes you feel how easy it is to be carried away by a crowd in motion. Players and viewers grab each other's hands and dance around. Suddenly, (foam) bricks are handed out. One moment you are still a non-violent reveler, the next you are standing with the others throwing those bricks at the riot police behind the smouldering barricade. I don't know exactly if that was one of the intentions, but I realised razor-sharp that you are a sheep in the herd before you know it.

A piquant side note is to see this tribute to Ukrainians eager to belong to Europe performed in a post-Brexit country that is just about to secede. But that is another story.

Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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