Staging new tales from old sagas

Extraordinary and sometimes alarming tales of the gods and heroes of Circassian myth will come to life as part of a Flinders University production The Doom of Sosruquo at the Bakehouse Theatre next week.

Stories from the mythological Nart sagas of the peoples of the North Caucasus, who were displaced by systematic Russian repression in the 18th and 19th centuries, have been adapted by Creative Writing students at Flinders into a script that will be performed by Drama students, with visual projections and soundscapes devised by students from Digital Media and Screen Studies.

Flinders drama lecturers Mr Joh Hartog and Dr Maggie Ivanova co-ordinated the project and Mr Hartog will direct the production.

The development of the interdisciplinary collaboration was funded by a Flinders University teaching grant, which aimed to introduce Creative Arts students to working in the area of “transnational literacy”.

”In the play’s creative development and production, the students identify examples of Nart cultural practice that have no equivalent in the west and explore suitable ways of ‘translating’ them for contemporary Australian audiences, without appropriating or doing injustice to the material,” Dr Ivanova said.

The production frames the enactment of Nart sagas with the device of a group of young backpackers travelling in the North Caucasus. They fall in with some local Circassian people, who enact stories of the birth, exploits and death of Sosruquo, one of the central heroes of the myths.

Mr Hartog said that as part of an oral tradition, the stories were developed to hold the attention of listeners, and include outlandish and magical events and feats.

“They’re tremendously juicy in the way they’re told,” Mr Hartog said.

Mr Hartog said the stories reflect a culture that ascribes to very different values from our own.

“According to one of the most important stories, the Nart were given the option by god of living long but secure lives or short and heroic ones, and chose the latter, so death holds no fear for them.”

Rehearsing The Doom of Sosruquo

Heroism, however, does not preclude cruel and vicious behaviour: “These are very much three-dimensional beings,” Mr Hartog said.

Mr Hartog hopes Sosruquo and his adventures will act as a reminder of the vibrant and distinctive culture of a dispossessed people.

“Almost all the stories we tell or retell each other we already know – here is an amazing set of stories most of which we have never heard before.”

The play will run from June 10 to 14 at the Bakehouse Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide.

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