Tuesday, February 27

Curfew/Love in the Time of Apartheid – Unity Theatre

Curfew is a dance performance by the El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe and Hawiyya Dance Company under the artistic direction of Sharaf DarZaid, which looks at the role of media and technology in today’s world and its effect on all of us as members of society. It was performed with Love in the Time of Apartheid, a solo choreographed and performed by Sharaf DarZaid which looks at what happens when love is divided by duty and internal conflict.

Heavy use of haze disorientates the audience before the dancers even enter the stage. Clever use of lighting means the performers of Curfew apparently appear out of nowhere stretching languidly out of feline poses, a perfect symbol of slowly awakening but being immediately ready for the tension and conflict which quickly follows.

The performance swiftly shows how easily constant exposure to the media can overwhelm all of your senses and even if you try and hide from the loud and ever-changing world of news, it’s so prevalent in our society, it will always find a way in. The eight-person dance troupe become an overpowering crowd through creative use of light and shadow. Good use of contrasting sounds also adds to the intense feeling of suffocation by so much information, noise and constant imagery.

The performers have chosen not to focus on digital media alone, with artistic use of newspaper giving a tangible feeling to that which has become intangible. Individual dancers are shown to be held in hostage like relationships with mobile phones as movements become increasingly mechanical as they merge with the digital world.

Synchronisation of movement and individuals breaking from this mirroring show the ease with which you can be pulled into meaningless routines over and over again. Exhausted and overcome by the world, the dancers retreat back into their catlike personas and sleep, only to begin again when their phone alarms break their slumber the next day.

Love in the Time of Apartheid is a bittersweet solo performance which takes you along a rollercoaster of emotions as it tells a heart-breaking story of love and loss in a world which does not permit the love which has been found and treat with such tenderness.

Opening with DarZaid sitting alone in a chair with a baby crying in the background, the sound quickly morphs into that of happy children which is quickly followed by a joyful dance performance by DarZaid which it is impossible not to smile at.

But the happiness is to be short-lived and DarZaid quickly becomes jittery as his stress and frustration grows. Reaching out to a beam of light and trying to hold it, an impossibility that DarZaid attempts with such sincerity, it is hard not to hope against hope he can grasp the white glow in his hands, his earlier joy blends with what seems to be inevitable anger.

DarZaid then visibly forces down emotion in an obvious symbol of compliance, before endless piles of paper scattered across the stage overwhelm him. What builds then is a palpable feeling of burnout, exhaustion, exasperation and tragedy which bring this agonising love story to life.

Curfew and Love in the Time of Apartheid both deal with overwhelm and frustration in modern society, pointing towards those elements which we cannot control and our attempts to do so anyway. Brutally honest and breath-taking in their execution, these two pieces of physical theatre are a brilliant addition to the genre, and both will give you a lot to think about as you step back into the world of technology and routine which holds us all in its grasp.

Curfew and Love in the Time of Apartheid are being performed again at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London on 20 July 2022. Tickets are available here https://www.ucl.ac.uk/event-ticketing/app/?ev=21142

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 16th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★