Director Nancy Black and dancer/ pupeteer Duda Paiva first met at the Victorian College of the Arts. In 2014 the pair embarked on a development of the work BLIND at Theatre Works. Upon watching the work unfold, Creative Producer Daniel Clarke knew it had to be part of Theatre Works’ program. BLIND premiered at Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes (France) in 2015 to much acclaim, before touring extensively throughout Europe. The Theatre Works season marks it’s Australian premiere.
The solo work draws on Duda Paiva’s childhood in Brazil, when he was temporarily blinded by disease, subjected to painful experiments and ruthlessly rejected by society. Combining puppetry, dance and audience interaction, BLIND is Duda’s personal story of discovery, empowerment and healing. Read on to hear from Nancy and Duda.
Nancy – Tell us how the unique partnership with Duda Paiva came about
We first met in 2009, when Duda came to the Victorian College of Arts to teach. We liked each other enormously and thought even then that we would like to work together. We stayed in touch. Then in 2014 Duda invited me to collaborate with him on a new show. And so began an amazing voyage, moving from one story idea to another, emails flying across continents, residencies both here and in Europe. Then, in a development period at Theatre Works, we discovered our mutual links to disability. It was clear to me that this would form the backbone of our piece. Both of us wanted to approach the subject from a theatrical stand point; it was not to be issue-based. We worked slowly, on the floor and on paper, painstakingly so, many stops and starts, and many wonderful revelations. We experimented with the audience relationship; we discovered how rich it could be. Gradually it came together.
Duda – Tell us about the challenges and celebrations of presenting such a personal work on stage
It’s like a remake of my own story with the input of an audience. The many different ways the audience react makes it a new experience each time we perform. I invited Nancy Black to direct the show due to her own experience in the subject of disability and her love towards cross-art-form. She brought the challenge and the courage of touching a difficult subject (for me) with grace and intelligence. The format of the spectacle, having part of the audience on stage, also adds to the beauty of the proximity of intimacy between performer and puppet. This intimacy is something I’ve been seeking for a long time.
Duda – Why do you choose to work with puppets? What role do the puppets play?
The choice is theirs (the puppets). Through the years I found out that my choice of using puppets is secondary. Once you bring life to these figures they no longer are just puppets, they have their own aura, perhaps I should call them living sculptures. In this spectacle I celebrate the very core of what I found by working with them: a sense of calmness as if somebody is guiding me through the darkness, they can see while I keep my eyes closed and rested. That’s the feeling I had when I was in full darkness for two years. A strange sensation of complete surrender takes over me. Puppets help me to transform traumatic experiences or any kind of story into art; therefore there is a power of transformation about them that is extremely theatrical and compelling.