Published: a blog for the Rich Mix on my play Dagestan Poet and martial artist Steven J Fowler writes about his first piece written for theatre:Dagestan. See it performed here on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th of October. 

“Dagestan is a real place, or so I might read, or be told. At the moment, in Britain, it might as well not be, for our relationship to that place is non-existent. So it has been for many nations, until we have a reason to know they exist. What if we found something in Dagestan we needed, or wanted? What if something happened there that led us to announce our presence, and so define our relationship to this new and exotic place, this idea of the place? How do we do our announcing in a world after Iraq and Afghanistan, after the 21st century has begun, and where private military companies, with their own internal cultures, their own ‘special’ checks and balances, might be the first boots to hit the ground?

This is the context of my first play, a hypothetical question. But just as all professions seem to have their own internal language and logic, so Dagestan is also really about a closed, internal world of physical training, through the martial arts, and playful, innovative language. It is a play in the tradition of Beckett, or Pinter, and as Beckett said, “a play is not a simulation of life outside, any more than football is, or the circus, or a game of chess, but an activity in itself.” So it is with Dagestan, not merely as a snapshot of the world, but a way to represent aggression and vulnerability, strength and weakness, expression and physicality through the material of the theatre, that is, with the audience acknowledged, and with the actors switching from exhausting performance to energetic dialogue.

“A play is not a simulation of life outside, any more than football is, or the circus, or a game of chess, but an activity in itself.” - Samuel Beckett

With my own background in martial arts, it’s been an amazing experience developing a work-in-progress version of the play, something both physical and literary, working with brilliant actors Robin Berry, Maya Wasowicz, Steve North and Gareth Tempest, director Russell Bender and producer Tom Chivers, to make something we hope is truly unique. A play where knives and chokes sit comfortably with paradox and poetry.

Dagestan has become a non-place in this play, an idea, with its own internal logic, its own presence, that isn’t really real, but perhaps closer to the truth of something for that, for it is not pretend. It is wonderful to have the chance to take risks in theatre, to build upon ideas not immediately obvious or easy to digest, and that are far richer for that fact.”