FOR the first Open Central Asia International Festival, promising a much larger event next year, venues across London have hosted a series of performances over two weeks.
Audiences watched performers from across Central Asia (the countries known collectively as the “Stans”: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan) present both traditional and contemporary poetry, drama, song, dance, and recitation. Radical film was screened, and recent BBC documentaries on this fascinating region were revisited. Exotic foods were sampled, and the wine and cognac from these proud regions flowed in abundance.
The festival was the inspiration of Yuldosh Juraboev, director, actor, and founder of Orzu Arts, and the musician Joseph Sanders. Some of the oldest dances in the world were performed in Camberwell, accompanied by songs that once echoed over the steppes.
Two dramas were outstanding: The Prompter by the Kyrgyz playwright and politician Sultan Raev, and the experimentalist ensemble put together by the young Tajik impresario Muhidinni Muzaffar. The former relayed the bittersweet reminiscences of an ageing actress, and the latter, Fools Court, had Hamlet antagonise King Lear in a glorification of the absurd.
At a time when funding is increasingly scarce and the need to rejoice in our shared humanity has never been more pressing, this festival sought to encourage genuine creativity and foster cultural ties between different regions of the world — a breath of fresh air on the arts circuit, especially given in Turkey, only “Turkic” plays are now to be supported by state-run venues. Patronage offered by churches would be welcomed, and proclaim that creativity has more than national significance.
David Parry is a director, poet, and playwright, and chairman of the Eurasian Creative Guild.