Emily Aboud’s tale of living in the modern world on the shoulders, backs and broken bones of the victims of colonial imperialism is an inspired, enchanting piece of theatre. It strikes at the very heart of modern ‘Western’ society with a jagged, sharp wit. Bogeyman is unafraid to delve into corners which will make the audience deeply uncomfortable with the world they inhabit and the privileges they hold – questioning what would happen if the bodies and souls of those who perished under colonial rule rose again today.
First of all, it should be applauded just how self-aware this piece is. It is a deeply playful experience to be a part of. The four performers on stage tease and test the audience by running and jumping at them, bending their perceptions with poetry and physicality. We spend time investigating the depths of what builds a colonial world which stands even today, while staying rooted in a colourful, nuanced celebration-exploration of the Haitian Revolution and the religion of Vodou.
We begin by understanding the real cultural provenance of the Vodou Doll. Quick to play with our cultural perceptions, we soon learn that our Western view of the Doll is more than just a cultural misunderstanding – the Doll is actually a symbol of connectedness, not control. Why would the imperial powers be scared by having to give up control to a stranger? Bogeyman raises questions in a way which allows for such nuance and new perspective to emerge that you sat there entranced for the entire show. Similarly explosive moments include learning about the history of Diabetes in colonised places and Yellow Fever mysteriously blighting invading French forces.
The piece’s connection to Vodou is nuanced too – it presents Vodou both in the supernatural sense and in a cultural sense. The supernatural sense is deliberately exaggerated and toyed with to try and get you scared. What Bogeyman unearths, however, is that the real thing to be scared of is being accountable for the actions of the past. Are we scared of things that have been stolen being taken back? Why do we commit ourselves to cultural institutions built on violent traditions of slavery, exploitation and colonialism? Reframing the conversation on neo-colonialism, we are not asked to consider what debt we owe to the past, but instead how the past haunts us. Can we rid ourselves of the blood, bones and spiritual damage we accept just by partaking in modern society?
The performances in the piece are fierce and bold, but more importantly they are also impish and lively. The piece’s “genre-defying” nature keeps you entangled in its web, as we traverse the history of the Haitian Revolution and our relationship to it now, how colonial blood built the cities we live in, how it taints the world we inhabit. Bogeyman is an incredibly bold, spirited piece with a neat philosophy behind it. When you sit down in the show, you are in dialogue with it, you are meshed into its web and forced to find your way our through your own conclusions.
Gutsy, mischievous and enlightening – you won’t be disappointed.
Recommended Drink: Emily Aboud recommends we take a Rum on the Rocks, but just remember how it’s ended up on your lips.
Catch Bogeyman while you can at Pleasance Dome – Queen Dome, at 15:55 until August 29th (except on the 15th and 22nd). Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.