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A Play Full of Hidden Messages: “Aşınma”

The best quality of “Aşınma (Abrasion)”, which was performed by a single actor on the foreground and 4 actors in the background, was its high performance skills. Although Yiğit Özşener was alone on the stage for 55 minutes, he gave a performance that filled the whole stage and left our mouths wide open. The play revolves around a single actor with light-up signs behind him giving commands. If he disobeys them, he is punished. Throughout the play, we see the character discovering the meaning of these signs, and finally rebelling against this order. The script is a rewritten version of the play "Fear of Darkness", written and staged by Şahika Tekand in 2008. Let’s take a look at Tekand, the screenwriter of this complex play.

Born in 1959 in Adana, Şahika Tekand started her university education at the Faculty of Law, but later dropped out and enrolled in 9 Eylül University Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Theater and Acting. After graduating, she completed her doctorate in the same department. Tekand set up an acting studio called "Studio" in 1988. Since "Abrasion" is a rewrite of "Fear of Darkness", I think it is necessary to look at the original version in order to understand the play better. Since I do not have the opportunity to watch the original play anymore, I will present its introduction and the notes of the playwright and director Tekand:

“Introduction of the Play:

  • Becoming blind in light when running away from darkness…

  • The transformation of every refusal attempt into a command which must be obeyed…

  • Right after every step taken, its forthcoming as one of the rules which operate the system, by the system…

  • Commands, codes, symbols which direct all that’s happening in the present time (and also in real time) where they gradually become familiar, and which becomes impossible to move in absence thereof…

  • The language of the system…

  • Being exposed to… learning… transformation…

  • The fact that, fear is much more fearful than the feared thing itself…

From the Writer’s and Director’s Notes:

“Fear of Darkness” expresses the transformation of the contemporary human being into a game piece that operates the system in a staging order, where the players try to give a struggle of existence in a very much entertaining yet coercive stage action and in which the players are exposed to rules of the “game” in present time as if the play area transforms into a simulation room.

The process of learning in real time, the rules and the game that is being played, creates a simultaneous experience both for the player and the audience. Although the original music of the play is composed in relation with the formation process of the stage action, it manipulates the stage action during the performance and becomes one of the basic requirements of the stage action itself to become the most basic entity in present time. Five role players try to exist under same conditions by giving different reactions. Five role players’ monologues intertwine with each other in a certain matrix pattern. The speech plait which has been woven, in order to simultaneously call these five monologues into being, forms the monologue of the single main character who expresses the contemporary cosmopolite human being in the system.

Fear of Darkness becomes true in a staging pattern which aims to reach the most abstract result through most natural human movements and reactions. “

In my case, I had no idea about the play before I went to see it, so it was a very confusing and exhausting experience. The high speed of the play and the rapid changing of symbols make things difficult to follow. Even when the play was over, I did not fully understand what it was about. When I re-read the blurb, I realized that it was about "contemporary life trends turning society into slaves". While watching the play, I first thought of the relationship between God and human and then, of a man being tortured. It turns out that the play is about how contemporary world trends rule us. I regret not analyzing the play more carefully before going, because it is definitely not a play that can be understood in one go.

For a certain period, I could not even realize that there were not 1 but 5 actors in the play. It is not possible to notice the 4 actors in the background unless you look carefully because they are in a place independent from the stage in the form of a group that manages the light signs on the stage. By chance, when I entered the hall, a cluster of lights caught my eye and I realized there was a control panel, but I certainly did not think that actors would be there. Being sensitive to lights, I happened to look in that direction by chance and noticed a group of people doing various movements. From that moment on, for a long time, my attention was on that control team checking the light signs. If the signs reflect the contemporary world, I think they represent those who decide how we live. When I noticed the actors upstairs, my impression that this was torture became even stronger, I was almost completely convinced that this was the story of a man being tortured.

As fluid and exciting as the play on stage is, it would have been more comfortable for the audience to watch and understand if the actors in the background were also highlighted. The fact that there is not even the slightest reference to them makes it almost impossible for the viewer to notice. If I was not sensitive to lights, I probably wouldn't have noticed them and a part of the play would have remained hidden. The play is generally successful, but I would have expected a finale that was more removed from the overall rhythm of the play. To know a play is going to end, the tension must be either lower or higher than the general course so that you realize a change is about to come. The tension of the play was already high in general, and we were greeted with an equally high finale. As a result, the finale was no different from any other moment in the play for me It was so ‘in trend’ that only when the lights turned on was I able to realize that the play was over.

If you want to experience an incredible performance under an hour and better understand this chain of command we live in, "Aşınma" is exactly the kind of play you will love. Just do not forget to read the blurb before you go, and to to dig the background players out of their hiding holes during the game.

Edited by: Simay Cemre Tulubas & Melisa Altıntaş

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