AT first glance Discover Love and Too Late (Antigone #2), showing at Brisbane's World Theatre Festival, might not appear to have much in common.
Yet despite their stylistic differences, the plays — from Belarus and Italy, respectively — are about the individual and the power of the state.
The Belarus Free Theatre's Discover Love aims for the heart and makes its purpose obvious. Too Late, from Italian company Motus, is a more tricksy affair, but both plays arise out of a response to ominous trends at the heart of European politics.
Based closely on true events, Discover Love tells of Irina, who grows up in the last years of the Soviet Union. She overcomes adversity, especially once she meets her husband, Tolya. Life changes when Tolya, politically active in Belorussia, is murdered by government agents. Discover Love confronts us with the truth that "disappearance" and extrajudicial killing are commonplace today.
In less adept hands, Discover Love has the makings of theatrical disaster.
But strong performances by Marina Yurevich and Oleg Sidorchik keep the story focused.
Too Late is a much more elliptical piece, relying on allusion and physical imagery.
Two actors consider a performance of Antigone, the story of the princess of Thebes prepared to defy the authority of family and state, even at the cost of her life.
In Too Late, the performers break bits off the play to see where they lead. A driving motif in the original play, of a character's dead body being left to be eaten by dogs, is the launching pad for a sequence in which actors do extended savage-dog impressions. It's oddly compelling, although in other spots the production resorts to some unilluminating "physical theatre" cliches.
Like Discover Love, Too Late reflects a deep unease at the increasing acceptance of demagoguery and violence as standard tactics in the politics of "free" nations.