The winner of 8 international theatre awards, Translunar Paradise by Bristol-based Theatre Ad Infinitum has toured to over 20 countries across the globe. As we prepare to bring the production back to Bristol this July, director George Mann (Pink Mist, Bristol Old Vic) shares memories from the tour.
“One of the most profound experiences we had touring Translunar Paradise was our trip to Sarajevo.
The beautiful city of Sarajevo nestled in a valley in Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of history, much of it tragic. Formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in this city that triggered World War I on 28 June 1914. More recently, The Bosnian War for independence resulted in the Siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996. Thousands of Sarajevan’s lost their lives under the constant bombardment and sniper shooting at civilians by the Serb forces during the siege, the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The people of Sarajevo are no strangers to war.
Part of the story of Translunar Paradise recounts William’s experience of fighting during WWII, and how he and his wife, Rose, cope when he returns, having lost a close friend in battle, he is injured and scared by trauma. We watch as they both struggle with William’s PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), for it is something that impacts family at home almost as much as it does those who fight: in our story William and Rose try to find a way to live with this and adapt after the war.
The performance was scheduled for midnight – this was a new experience for us – but we were very curious to see what performing at that time felt like, for the audience, for us. The day of the show our hosts had taken us on a walk down a famous street in the city that marked a frontier during the siege – people lived on either side, and had to run across this divide without getting shot everyday of the war. You can still see the bullet marks in the walls. And even though the people of Sarajevo are warm and friendly you can feel the impact of the siege everywhere you go.
That night, to our delight, the theatre was packed – not just on the seats but on the floor, ledges – all over the space people were crammed in to see the show. It was quite magical and surreal performing at that time. As the clock struck midnight we began – and you could literally hear a pin drop. I’m not sure I have ever known a more attentive audience. And when the moment in the story arrived in which William remembers his time fighting in WWII and coming home afterwards the audience became so emotional we were almost overwhelmed by feeling. Translunar quite often evokes a very emotional response in those who see it, but that night on 6th Oct 2011 was truly extraordinary. Afterwards we spent hours speaking with audience members who shared their own stories of grief and told us about those they had lost – it was tragic, yet also beautiful: having the opportunity to share something so profound with a group of people you don’t know is hard to describe. I think I will always remember Sarajevo.”
Translunar Paradise runs at Tobacco Factory Theatres (Bristol) from Tue 04 – Sat 08 July and you can read more on the main show page.
Posted on 09 June 2017