Although founded only in 1995, Theatre Kantanka has already presented works everywhere from the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour to the Old Adelaide Gaol. During this time, co-founder Carlos Gomez has created visual and physical spectacles painted from a variegated palette that includes everything from Brazilian experimental theatre to British mime, from Butoh to commedia dell’arte.
His latest challenge (with co-founder and co-director Michael Cohen) is to stage the erotic descent of a Sumerian goddess, based on a 5,000-year-old myth. His locale may be decidedly unexotic, but it’s certainly unusual.
Inanna’s Descent will be staged in the underground carpark of the Sydney Masonic Centre. The group had originally planned to stage the work in the underbelly of a disused train platform, but rising public liability costs sadly meant the withdrawal of support from State Rail. This sparked a desperate search, somewhat akin to Inanna’s journey, into the catacombs.
It was quite a nightmare to find the space, and the process took, really, 18 months, says Gomez. To encounter the space is always easy in a sense, but then to have the permission to do it -¦ it’s quite a big thing.
The origins of Inanna’s Descent also posed their own dramaturgical difficulties. Inanna’s story was originally written in cuneiform and carved on stone tablets, which were discovered in the 19th century. Before long the tablets were broken, stolen, and eventually recovered and brought together again in 1942. Needless to say a range of different interpretations and translations exist, along with a frustrating series of indecipherable gaps in the rhythmic verse. The factor that initially caught director Carlos Gomez’s eye though was that it was filthy.
The erotic intensity of the work is incredible, smiles Gomez. -¦ Inanna has a pretty beautiful, sexual time -“ it’s amazing that it’s 5,000-year-old writing. She’s a very determined woman.
The yarn goes something like this: Inanna is the goddess of heaven and earth, married to a shepherd called Dumuzi. Her sister Ereshkigal is queen of the underworld, a position that go-getter Inanna is keen to usurp. For reasons known only to the Ancient Sumerians, a trip down under(ground) requires total nudity, which leaves Inanna both chilly and vulnerable. Mummified by her angry sister (who has cottoned on to her plans), Inanna is eventually rescued, then captured by demons, then enacts a final, surprising act of revenge. You’ll need to see the show to find out the pay-off, which demonstrates more than a little grrrl power.
Along the way, Inanna is also forthright about her sexual needs. Likening her vulva to a fallow, untilled land, Inanna asks, Who will plow my high field?/Who will plow my wet ground? Further, Inanna tells Dumuzi, Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom/My shepherd, I will drink your fresh milk.
We’re asked to wear warm and comfortable clothing. Expectations should perhaps also be left at the door.
Inanna’s Descent opens tonight and runs until 20 July, underground at the Masonic Centre, cnr of Castlereagh and Goulburn Streets. The show runs Thursday to Saturday at 7pm, with additional Friday and Saturday shows at 9pm. Tickets are $22 and $17 and may be booked from The Performance Space on 9698 7235.