Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back to Toufann

I've been re-visiting Toufann - the Mauritian play we did as long ago as 1999 - because I've been asked to talk about it and lead a workshop in Saarbr├╝cken on Friday. It's been strange but refreshing to go back all that time and look at the way we were working then - and at the politics we were engaged in. It's still about interculturalism and post-colonialism: but the ground has definitely shifted.

Very interesting to stumble across some work by Francoise Lionnet, the Mauritian scholar now working at UCLA, to whom Toufann is dedicated (along with Shakespeare). In her book Minor Transnationalism, she looks at the play, and indeed at our production. I find it a bit odd that she analyses the effects of that production, and the meaning generated by presenting the play in a London context, seeing as she wasn't actually there..... I also think it's a bit disingenuous of her to say that I'm wrong to regard the use of the Hindi word "toufann" to convey "storm" as harking back to an Indian past, on the grounds that Dev is from the Tamil community, not the Hindu, and that he's interested in present and future, not past. It wasn't Dev I was talking about - it was his central character Prospero, who quite clearly names his tempest "toufann", even though it's not a common Creole word (or wasn't in 1991 when the play was written), and who obviously IS interested in the past. The play critiques Prospero and his standpoint, and that's where Dev's radicalism comes out.

Where she does say something very interesting, however, is in relation to the Creole phrase "tou fann", which I had not heard being linked to the title before, but clearly is. "Tou" means "all", and "fann" means "wilts" or "decays". So the title might mean not only "tempest" but also "Things Fall Apart" - evoking Yeats and Achebe to engage in a post-colonial battle alongside Shakespeare. And (though this is not in Lionnet) the Labour Party of Iran, which is also known as "toufan".

Things fall apart. There is a storm.

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