Prelude: 64 male volunteers were gathered at IFB from lunchtime onwards - one for each of the 64 years Myanmar's had a military dictatorship. By the time we were seated, they were all standing on stage, faces wrapped in masks, arms wrapped in bandages: the guise of protesters.
Act 1 (15-30 minutes): Monks in red robes chanted a (lengthy) blessing. Young people seated in front of the stage poured a libation in memory of those who had died during those 64 years. (No good photos, sorry.)
Act 2 (60-90 minutes): Four public intellectuals are invited on stage to talk with Soe, a member of Theatre of the Disturbed. The intellectuals - including feminists and survivors of the 1988 student protests - sit comfortably around a coffee table and answer questions about nonviolence.
Lin Htet: How do we as individuals take part in this conflict resolution? Or are we just waiting for the leaders to lead, for the leaders to come so we can follow? The answer was, we are. We are. We are still encountering conflicts. It is still part of human society. We will always encounter conflcits. But as a civilized society, we should be able to overcome conflict without resorting to violence. And I think this form of conflict resolution is the most important concept.
Lin Htet: We try to resolve conflict. But by trying to resolve conflict, are we having another conflict as a consequence? The answer was, well, you have many ways to resolve a conflict. Ia country, if there is a problem, the gvernng body msut be able to resolve the problem in a very responsible way. In a conflict, there are always two sides. If the governing body favours one side and tries to oppress the other side, there will be an imbalance and it will cause another rproblem as an imbalance in the conflict resolvuiton. But sometimes we need to create another conflict if it’s not properly resolved.
Lin Htet: This is the 21st century, so is violence necessary in resolving conflict? And if violence is necessary, then to what extent should it be tolerated? And the answer was, when one individual, one party is cornered, people tend to fight back. Even if you try to hit the dog in the corner, the dog will tyr to fight back. It is like this. Violence can be a resolution, but in a civilized society this is a two-way question. We may tend to use violence, because we are too desperate to find any other solution.
Lin Htet: Even this performance is a conflict between the participants over whether we should play Titus Andronicus with more violence or with less violence. His opinion is we should do Titus Andronicus as it is, because then we can educate this society in a very civilised and very sophisticated manner.
A half-naked man in a longyi eats ice cream on stage. A half-naked drummer in shorts marches around the audience. A woman pushes a stroller around the audience.
Riding back to the hotel, my bus-mates discussed what we'd seen.
Rachael Swain: The whole xperience gave me a very strong impression of the relationship between art and activism here. It's also about the issues of perofmrance art which are really about looking, movement. If Keng Sen or a Burmese artist whad tried to explain to me the relation between art and activism, I wouldn’t have got it as clearly as I did from that performance. And you ask yourself: was he beng ironic or not?