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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Michael Essien, I want to play as you… by Ahilan Ratnamohan – a choreographed football play @ Stratford Circus, E15. Wednesday 25 June @ 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 65 minutes. £6-£8-£12

© Paulien Verlackt-S

Michael Essien, I want to play as you...
Diretcor: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Performers: Aloys Kwaakum, Jimmy Nwaose, Wemimo Osasuyi, Praise Onubiyi, John Obi Agbo
Sound Design: Kris Strijbos, Ahilan Ratnamohan
Movement Consultant: Eddie Kaay for Frantic Assembly
Kids = 12+

How many times have I missed an animated cartoon on TV because the father wanted to watch football? Far too often to my taste.
In Africa, any football matches or even better, the so-called World Cup were synonymous of late nights and spooky games as all families gathered around a TV set and we, a gang of kids were left totally unsupervised, in tune with our scary imagination.

The very few times, I actually gave football credibility was when I watched it with some music on my ears. Simply watching body movements. The agility of a body. The ball tricks. The jumps to catch a ball with a torso. The head butts. The fake and dramatic moments of pains... rolling on the floor. From my faded memory, I remember white bodies being gradually replaced by black bodies. When a black body scored for France, newspapers named him as the greatest French footballer. When he didn’t, he was mentioned in some lines as the Cameroonian who just joined the team. But, however good a footballer was, they were definitely, incredibly and... unfairly rich!

A few years ago, I came across a French documentary about selecting African players on site and the underworld of the football slave-trade. Players were inspected as... a few centuries ago!

Director Ahilan Ratnamohan (Belgium/Australia) brings together theatre, dance and football with his choreographed play Michael Essien, I want to play as you… featuring five athletes from West Africa who share a common history of giving up everything to chase their dream of playing football in the European Leagues. A common goal: fulfilling a career like Michael Essien, a Ghanaian footballer who has played with Chelsea and Real Madrid and recently signed with Milan. These five athletes tell their own stories of life beyond the limelight navigating, agents, politics, visas, extreme training and contracts. From their dreams of fame and fortune to the reality of life, there is a shocking world of exploitation, racism and no power to escape.

© Paulien Verlackt-S

Ratnamohan was inspired by the darker side of football and how it has drawn many into believing football is a way out of poverty – and created an underclass of football-aspirants in foreign lands: “When I was 19 or 20, I set off for Europe to make it as a footballer. I didn’t understand the business: I just had this romantic idea of rocking up at a club and living the dream.

Michael Essien, I want to play as you… is a body movement taken out of its football context giving a new dimension to reality with a dark edge... but charged with humour. Its music balances the moods between the harsh reality and the (re)connections of their far lands. My little advice: sit at the front row if you have a hearing deficiency, or if you have (a) kid(s)... they might want to take photos as these footballers will request.

Ahilan Ratnamohan is a performance maker working with unorthodox forms and inspired by sport, film and language. After completing a film degree at the University of Technology, Sydney in 2005, he attempted to make a career as a professional footballer in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. Since 2007, he has been creating physical performance pieces. He has worked with diverse Sydney based companies and artists such as Urban Theatre Projects, Branch Nebula, Legs on the Wall, PACT, PYT, Theatre Kantanka, Martin del Amo and Campbelltown Arts Centre

This show lasts 65 minutes but took four years in the making due to intense research about the so-called football slave trade and also due to the flexibility the team endured as their precarious situation meant deportation for some of them.

This is part of LIFT2014.
Michael Essien, I want to play as you… is at Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, London E15 1BX Wednesday 25 June, 2:00pm & 7:30pm – £6-£8-£12 - Admin: 020 8279 1001; Box office: 0844 357 2625 @StratfordCircus - #BeautifulGame @LIFTfestival - - #LIFT2014

My little advice from Clapton: both 425 and 308 buses are really pleasant journeys. 425 goes all around the back and narrow streets of Hackney while 308 is faster and appears to be a journey in the wild confronted with industrial locations. If you are as lucky as I was last night, a DJ will play some xtra decent African tunes in the nice caf’... so... go!

To those who love art but are not necessarily into football, I’ll recommend to watch Zidane - A 21th Century Portrait by             Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno, music by Mogwai =

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