With love, from Kiev to Kilkenny as politically-charged stage-show comes to Ireland

With love, from Kiev to Kilkenny as politically-charged stage-show comes to Ireland
Mark Marczyk and Marichka Marczyk are at Kilkenny Arts Festival.

They met at turbulent street protests in their homeland, and now this married couple bring their politically-charged stage-show to Ireland, writes Cathy Desmond

Currently on their way to Kilkenny to play in the city’s arts festival, Marichka and Mark Marczyk first met on the Maiden, Kiev’s central square where thousands gathered daily to protest at the government strengthening ties to Russia.

In January 2014, there was the first serious clash with riot police that resulted in the death of three protestors. Mark was in the city on cultural mission connected with a folklore project.

“I had just arrived in Kiev to record a film score but I couldn’t get anyone to come into the studio. All the musicians I knew were protesting so I went to find them right at the heart of the protest. Marichka was on the stage with a folk choir singing a Requiem Mass for the three dead boys.”

Moved by the singing, Mark went back to meet the choir and met his future wife over a cup of tea. When Marichka discovered that Mark was blogging on his observations, she acted as his guide to people and places around the events.

That exploration became something we did together.

Based now in Toronto, Mark is best known as leader of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a rumbustious collective drawing heavily on Balkan and Klezmer traditions. Marichka is a respected musicologist, an expert on the folk traditions of her native country.

Together with creatives from Belarus Free Theatre, the Marczyks have devised theatre productions reflecting on their experiences of turmoil in 21st century Ukraine. Counting Sheep, a hit at Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2017 was a vivid immersive experience set against the backdrop of the Kiev protests.

When I speak by telephone to Mark in Kiev, he shares some perspectives on the current political scene. The next weekend sees parliamentary elections feature parties headed by a popular comedian who was recently elected president, and a young rock star.

Our job and our mission have always been and continues to be to listen intently to people and find out what’s happening on the streets, to our friends that are near the front line and observe how things are changing.

Balaklava Blues, a new stage-show written and performed by the duo integrates Eastern European folk music with electronic dance music adding archive documentary footage and Russian animated cartoons.

The show, says Mark, will have a similar intent to Counting Sheep but is a different style of production. Part concert, part multi-media presentation, he says it has elements that will appeal to a club-going audience. Mark will be joined by his wife Marichka and drummer Os Kar from the Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

“We wanted to express that a revolution and a war came to Ukraine that completely changed the physical and the psychological landscape of people who were unprepared for that kind of change. We needed something to express that and just using the traditional didn’t feel right.

We needed something more metallic, more industrial, at times more destructive, that would allow us to communicate the wide variety of emotions we’ve been going through in this past while.

“It has been such a unifying experience and we thought what better way to express that unity than some popular on-the-floor rhythms that everybody can dance to. There is something about electronic dance music that brings everybody together. It felt like the right metaphor, the right form, the thing that felt natural to continue telling the story.”

- Balaklava Blues is at the Set Theatre on Saturday, August 10, www.kilkennyarts.ie

- Kilkenny Arts Festival runs until August 18

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