Gob Squad presents: “War and Peace” - the ultimate distraction
Fiction, according to Tolstoy, could get you closer to the truth. But what should be asked is – “what is truth”? Gob Squad takes another seemingly basic concept under deeper consideration and asks: “why war?”, also suggesting that we could just as well ask: “why peace?”. By taking Tolstoy as their inspiration, Gob Squad in their production of “War and Peace” is holding a witty conversation with us about conflicts from the perspective of peace in the modern world.
“War and Peace”, realistic-historical novel by Leo Tolstoy is considered a Russian epopee. Written over one hundred years ago, describing over 135 characters on over 1200 pages, placed on the lists of must-read books. No matter how “heavy” it sounds, Gob Squad condensed one of the greatest Tolstoy’s pieces of work into a less than two hours production. Those who expect an adaption, useful to understand and to get to know “War and Peace” without reading it, will feel a major disappointment. Although, they are presenting some of the main points of the novel, German-British collective flicks through it in a live video performance by creating a salon attempting to be a similar one to those held in czarist Russia. They engage some people from the audience to sit with them, contemplate, and to be distracted.
Gob Squad touches contrary topics such as life and death, and obviously war and peace, by asking what exactly those things are. But instead giving a clear-cut answer, they are leaving an open space for decoding based on everyone’s specific experiences. They draw inspiration from Tolstoy by mostly focusing on history and they set it in the modernity, where most of us can’t possibly imagine the reality – and normality – of war. We sit on the comfortable couches of ravaging peace, being constantly distracted. The word “distraction” itself is being used many times in Gob Squad’s production. Apparently this is a thing we can do the best. In order to that, the members of the modern salon - and we as the audience as well as this salon isn’t only reduced to few chairs but expanded to the conception of the whole world - are watching some distractions. Some of the characters of the Tolstoy’s novel are being introduced in the fashion show style. The actors are literally acting by showing the performativity of personalities that we can identify ourselves with but mostly only on a superficial level.
The performance is an attempt to reflect on the question of “if it is possible to live a moral life in an ethically imperfect world”, drawing on the issue of comfortable living inside capitalism full of consumption. We are also introduced to people such as military prostitute or a military nurse, that hardly no one normally think about in the “ethically imperfect world” of commodity fetishism.
With Tolstoy in their minds, God Squad created entertaining, but full of meanings performance. Even though, it can be hard to find many connections between the production and the novel, you leave the theatre with many new questions about relations of history and our modern reality, that afterwards seems like an ultimate distraction.