Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev is the location for an incredible story of mass resistance and survival. It is also the story of two unique people who met, found love, and took the unfolding tragedy of the Ukraine and turned it into a thrilling and deeply moving theatrical experience.
Yesterday at Roth House, Mark and Marichka Marczyk who co-created Counting Sheep, spoke at length about their backgrounds and meeting, the tumultuous events that unfolded around them and their hopes for the future. Towards the close of the discussion, Marichka turned to us and asked that we should not call Counting Sheep a show. ‘We just wanted to share with other people what happened.’ She elaborated further – ‘this form of communication through performance leads to dialogue. This is good for humanity. People feel compassion for others and their stories.’
That they are wonderfully talented musicians was never in doubt. But, that these two performers could fashion these events into a truly immersive experience with genuine theatrical bravura is astonishing. From the skill in which they told the story with the simplest of means, you would never guess they were not seasoned theatre makers.
Discussion of elements of the production during the talk and afterwards, revealed many interesting details. For instance, the meal the immersive audience enjoy at the beginning, is just one detail of the support the protesters were given, as members of the community came to the square constantly with food. There were doctors and lawyers on hand too, as well as lecturers from the university who held impromptu meetings and classes. The dancing, though basically an assertion of Ukrainian identity in the face of oppression, was as much to keep warm in sub zero temperatures. Rioters were planted amidst the protesters so the police could close the marches down. They were bussed in from poor rural areas, paid in dollars and given bottles of vodka.
The name Ukraine has several meanings, but the most common is borderlands, boundary or the edge. Despite all the heroic attempts to keep it whole and within greater Europe, at this moment, it seems to be failing. Russia annexed the Crimea in March 2014. To the east, in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, there is a declared breakaway state. With Russian troupes along the border, constant fighting and many deaths, fear that another annexation is at hand is more than justified.
Mark and Marichke have been courageous and determined in bringing this story to a wider world, and we in Kilkenny, can feel privileged to have seen it.