Tierno Bokar

  • Date:
    March 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Review by Polly Wittenberg

    Written by: by Amadou Hampate Ba, adapted by Marie-Helene Estienne
    Directed by: Peter Brook
    Cast: Habib Dembele, Rachid Dja�dani, Djeneba Kone, Sotigui Kouyate, Tony Mpoudja, Bruce Myers, Abdou Ouologuem, Helene Patarot, Dorcy Rugamba and Pitcho Womba Konga.
    Synopsis: Describes the life and teachings of a humble and extraordinary Sufi mystic. His story draws us deep into a traditional and animistic Africa, moulded by Islam, shaken by Colonialism and torn apart by internal struggles.

    Polly Wittenberg's Review.

    Peter Brook, whose latest �theatrical research� is currently on view at the transformed LeFrak Gym at Barnard College, is from the left wing of great directors, always trying to expand the subjects and the techniques explored on the stage; always seeking new audiences.

    In Tierno Bokar, drawn from the life of a Sufi Muslim known as �the Sage of Bandiagara� who lived in Mali, all of Brook�s obsessions are in evidence. Set in the era of colonialist rule in Africa, a seemingly minor religious dispute leads to great divisions among the natives and, after turning pragmatist in order to avoid violence, Bokar is ostracized by his own following and dies alone. Narrated by one of his disciples through an array of simply presented and disparate conversations shown in flashback, Bokar�s story is essentially that of the impact on others of a benevolent religious guiding spirit, a subject which is very difficult to portray on stage.

    Though the commitment of Brook and his varied, elegant cast members (who speak in French accompanied by English supertitles) to presenting big themes from unaccustomed points of view is clear, the payoff in terms of lessons taught (e.g. �There are three kinds of truth�my truth, your truth and the truth.�) seems not to justify the effort.

    It�s too bad, because Brook�s big reputation and the relatively low ticket prices (loudly lauded elsewhere) attracted a young crowd not usually seen in more traditional venues downtown.

    Polly Wittenberg

    What the critics had to say.....

    MARGO JEFFERSON of the NEW YORK TIMES says �I could have been turning the pages of a venerable book whose text and pictures were too faint to be clearly seen.�
    GORDOn COX of NEWSDAY says "He's (Peter Brook) always been a proponent of paring down to essentials: He titled his renowned 1968 book about theater 'The Empty Space.' Here, however, he calmly peels away so much that there's little left."
    PETER SANTILLI of ASSOCIATED PRESS says "Its constant rumination and periodically dormant plot will make it too dry for some palates"

    External links to full reviews from newspapers:
    New York Times
    Associated Press