For 18 days starting on the 23rd of May, the Yard in East London will transform into a ‘Leper Colony’. The new experimental play will mark the return of renowned filmmaker Vaughan Pilikian to the stage after 10 years. Migrant Voice’s Joanna Cordero talks to the director to find out more about the project.
On the Yard website, Vaughan Pilikian’s ‘Leper Colony’ is enigmatically described as: ‘Here there are no stories to tell. There are no characters and no places. There is no such thing as society. There is no such thing as the ninety-nine percent.’ Naturally, once I had the chance to speak with the award-winning London-based filmmaker and theatre director, I had to ask what it all meant. What will the viewers take out of it?
“It’s rather hard to put into words.” Vaughan began to explain. “It’s a piece about different things,” he says later on. The reason why it is so difficult to clearly define is because the piece, like its creator, escapes categorisation.
In the past, lepers were shunned by the community. They were driven into the wilderness or into institutions. These leper colonies were like outposts where the unwanted would be forced to remain, out of sight. “I’m taking this idea and dragging it into the present,” he said.
In other words, ‘Leper Colony’ is an exploration of social exclusion, which is a recurring theme in the artist’s work. It is his interpretation and representation of the experience of the migrant, the refugee, the person denied personhood, denied a place of society.
“The Leper Colony is the stripping away of the veneer of control and finding out what is underneath. What is society hiding?“ he said. Looking at the edges of society reveal the nature of power with much more clarity.
Vaughan’s interest in marginality reflects the ambiguity of his relationship with the community where he finds himself. He is of Armenian and American descent and has been educated in the UK. His grandfather was one of the many Armenian men who fled from the Turkish army through the Syrian dessert. His background and the route that his life has taken him have made him feel both affection and alienation from the British society.
His experiences and his need to react to the community that surrounds him has driven him to work in different forms of media. “I have no profession, I have no career. I am interested in life… I simply react to the world because I feel that I have to.”
Vaughan has made films and paintings, published a collection of poems and is also the current president of Latter Lammas. The collective works with marginalised communities and as part of this initiative, he has been working on the documentary film ‘Elsewhere’. The film “Is about a place that does not exist. It’s about the place that is inhabited the people in London who are invisible to the owners or the people who control London,” he said.
The project, which has been going on for the last two years, hopes to access and give a form to the world and the lives of people who are disconnected from the society and its structures because they are undocumented, homeless and jobless through the cinematic form.
Vaughan Pilikian’s ‘Leper Colony’ will be at the Yard from 23 May- 09 June at 8pm and on Sundays at 4pm.
For more information: http://theyardtheatre.co.uk/show/leper-colony/