Transforming Theatre: Collective Pandemic Experiences Inspire Female Creators to Push Boundaries
Text: Alina Zhukova
Aijamal Nova performing "Female Morph" at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Performance directed by Daria Vasko)
In the face of unprecedented challenges brought about by the global pandemic, artists and performers have pushed the boundaries of creativity to new realms of possibility. One such remarkable endeavour is "Female Morph," a transformative performance created by Daria Vasko, a visionary theatre designer. Presented as a Graduation performance at the MA Scenography course at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2021, "Female Morph" is a striking visual commentary on the intricacies of the female body and its profound impact on identity formation, while also being a reflection of the profound influence of the pandemic on the arts.
At the heart of "Female Morph" is the extraordinary talent and artistic gift of Aijamal Nova, the performer who brought the artistic concept to life through her body, movement, and soul. Aijamal's ability to connect deeply with the concept and embody it in her performance was instrumental in shaping the final piece. Her authentic and captivating portrayal went beyond the confines of a pre-rehearsed scenario. Nova's improvisation and ability to create in the moment allowed for a powerful and truthful performance that resonated with audiences. Her genuine emotions and intuitive responses added an element of rawness and vulnerability to the piece, making it a profound and deeply moving experience.
The key elements of the "Female Morph" performance lie in the innovative use of lighting design, projections, and the incorporation of fluid materials such as milk, molasses, and earth. The carefully designed lighting accentuated the performer's movements and created striking visual effects
Daria Vasko expertly constructed the performance with meticulous care and an acute artistic sensibility. Through a thoughtful selection of scenographic elements, Vasko brought the concept of "Female Morph" to life with remarkable precision. The costume of the performer, functioning as a second skin, symbolized the physical and cultural modifications of the body, representing the struggle to transcend external constructs. Employing fluids such as milk, molasses, and earth, Vasko blurred the boundaries between the body and its traces, subverting established norms. Vasko skillfully manipulated lighting positions and effects to enhance the texture of the perspex screens, obscuring and revealing the body, and creating a dynamic interplay of evolving outlines that unfolded with the performance.

The live performance of 'Female Morph' was a culmination of artistic exploration, revealing unexpected discoveries. As Aijamal Nova moved across the space, her presence expanded, occupying the entire set. The performance embraced a loose structure, allowing the materials to speak and propose implicit motions. A poignant moment occurred when Aijamal removed her skin costume, symbolizing a departure from her outdated self-image. In a subsequent recorded performance, projections onto perspex screens created a mesmerizing effect. Three simultaneous moving images, accompanied by reflections, appeared, evoking a sense of bodies striving to connect through the vertical barrier. The transformation of the costume from a representation of her subjectivity to an object added depth to the exploration of identity. The exhibition of 'Female Morph' showcased the potential of integrating perspex screens and projections, blurring boundaries between reality and illusion and enhancing the transformative power of live performance.

Three simultaneous moving images, accompanied by reflections, appeared, evoking a sense of bodies striving to connect through the vertical barrier, which was very reflective of what many of us felt during the lockdown.
As the world continues to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic, "Female Morph" is an inspiring expression of the resilience and adaptability of the arts. It showcases the power of collective experiences and the capacity of artists to transcend limitations and inspire profound introspection and transformation. Daria Vasko's powerful theatre performance demonstrates the profound impact that the pandemic has had on the arts, propelling artists to explore new avenues and redefine the boundaries of theatrical expression.
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