By Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte and Lina Lapelyte
In the summer I went to see something unique at an out of town South-East London theatre, the Albany in Deptford. Sun & Sea, a modern Lithuanian opera and art installation, won a Golden Lion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, and is currently touring in its English as well as its Lithuanian iterations. The performance I saw was virtually sold out.
A perfectly mocked up beach was populated by people lying on towels in swimwear, the occasional dog, children playing with buckets and spades, people throwing a ball back and forth. There were about 30 performers on the beach, of varying shapes, sizes and ages. Then the singing started: some of the singers were lying on the sand, some seated in deck chairs. Sometimes there were solo voices, or two voices, other times all the voices were heard together.
The libretto laid out a tale of complacent, entitled holiday makers, living parallel lives, and blissfully – or actually often slightly grumpily – ignorant of a fast-approaching environmental disaster.
I was given a timed slot to enter, so I arrived in media res, and the opera unfolded in a cyclical loop, so I saw the beginning after the end. That didn’t matter. It was mesmerizing.
The day was oppressively hot during the heatwave that endured for weeks in London last summer, which added to the real sense, in the sweaty gallery above, of being a voyeur at the seaside. Whether the same vibe would be felt in Vilnius Taxi Park in December is an open question.