At the King’s Hall, we all gather around a table, serenaded by the Canada-based, Ukrainian-led Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Protesters face riot cops, both sides wearing sheep masks and live footage of the Ukraine’s Euromaidan demonstration is projected as we eat. We know that this is going to be an intense, serious night of theatre. As we are dragged from our comfort, our tables and chairs become the rubble; we are forced into the action and it’s frightening and as real as it can be as we join the revolution.
Counting Sheep is billed as a guerrilla folk opera, which is exactly what it is, sung in traditional Ukrainian polyphony by the 15-piece guerrilla-folk punk band. This is theatre at its best, an important message to share. But it’s more than that. It’s a stark reality, a warning. This is real life, a reflection of humanity and the world that we are living in. Mark and Marichka Marczyk fell in love on Independence Square during the Revolution of Dignity, and are sharing this visceral account of the protests against Pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev’s Maidan Square. They are teaching us not to be ignorant.
We are completely immersed into their experience, their history and the civil war that is still going on today in Donbass. We see the figures. We dance, sing, laugh, cry, mourn. We eat dumplings, borscht and pierogi. We help dishing out the food, throw bricks at the police, anything we can. There’s a wedding, there’s a funeral. Hard hats placed on heads, tables become shields that we use to hide behind. It’s petrifying. They have complete control; anything they ask us to do, we would oblige. We want to help. A phone rings, and it’s heart wrenching – a loved one trying to get in contact, with someone who is already gone.
Counting Sheep is an astonishingly important, eye-opening, thought-provoking event to attend. There’s always a stand out show in the Fringe – this is 2016’s. We are the spectators of an unimaginable experience. This is theatre, as well as a lesson and those final words – ‘The war is not over’ – will stay with us.