Breaking in, setting the camera up, tying myself up, filming myself. Kind of crazy, schizophrenic stuff,” says Jordan Tannahill of adventuring into a snowy, abandoned ghost town to explore the kinkier side of artistic creation. Welcome to Bravislovia.
Little is known about Bravislovia, a former Soviet state that has seen considerable political turmoil over the past century. After overthrowing the royal family, its tyrannical dictator ushered in a new era of oppression for the country’s political dissenters, artists and queers. Don’t bother looking in an atlas or history textbook to learn more, however — Bravislovia exists only in Tannahill’s mind.
The creative director of performance company Suburban Beast and the visionary writer and director of such works as Insurgency and Post Eden, Tannahill began developing the world of Bravislovia around the age of 10. Fascinated by maps, atlases and geography, he created his fictional country as a sort of defence mechanism. “We have this kind of need for order and to be part of something very small, and in your small realm of control. When you’re a kid you have no control... I was creating this world to survive.”
Tannahill filled his imaginary country with a cast of characters and wrote himself in as Isaac Nyakov, a queer artist and poet who also writes to survive. “All the history of Bravislovia is intermixed with the real-life history of Europe,” says Tannahill, “but also intermixed with my own personal history.” It is “intrinsically linked to both my queer identity but also specifically to my coming out.”
Bravislovia is a solo work that melds film and live narration, a technique familiar from Tannahill’s previous works. He works in this medium because it’s the kind of theatre he wants to see: “It provides the startling intimacy possible with recorded images, with the raw energy of the live event.”
Both personal and political, Bravislovia reflects a turbulent society obsessed with oppressive control and fanatically conservative values, one not unlike our own. Tannahill promises to take his audience on a journey to a very intimate, private world. One that is no longer just in his mind.
Bravislovia is part of the Rhubarb Festival and runs from Wed, Feb 23–Sat, Feb 27 at Buddies, 12 Alexander St. Info: buddiesinbadtimes.com
Michael Lyons is a writer and theatre artist who also has entire countries swirling in his head.
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