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An impactful narration of the past

DHNS, Feb 4, 2013

Moving Performance

Passionate: Martin Figura reciting the poem.

Martin Figura, a poet, recently staged a performance of one of his works — ‘The Whistle’ — at the National Gallery of Modern Arts. And as he did so, it was obvious that many of the members of the audience were getting emotional. 

This was an hour-long multimedia depiction of his post-war British childhood, interspersed with poetic verses, describing how his father killed his mother. It was both sensitive and impactful.To add depth to the performance, Martin incorporated some old photographs of his parents and letters written by his mother to his father into it.

The poem is woven around small anecdotes from his childhood. It begins with an introduction to his father, who was from Poland and was forced to join the German army. Soon after the war ended, he shifted to Liverpool — and that is when he met the poet’s mother. .Laced with humour and sarcasm in the first half, the poem gives the impressions of a happy family. This myth, however, is busted in the second half of the recital.

As the performance progressed, the poet described a trip to Poland with his father, who wanted to go back to his homeland in search of his identity. After he returned, he meets one of his colleagues who knew of his past and his stint with the German army. His father retreats into a shell — and that is when the differences between his parents start growing, until the tragic day that he kills his wife.


The poet is then taken away to St Helen by his maternal uncle and the narration becomes aggressive and dark, showcasing the trouble he faced in his childhood. The recital grows on the listener solely because of the strong, yet simple narrative. 

In fact, the audience members could be seen listening carefully and occasionally, wiping a tear.

Ahana, who was moved to tears by the performance, says that it was a very impactful recital. “It’s like a story in which he has incorporated so many of his childhood memories. The presentation of this entire package is commendable,” she says.

Srinivas Balaji, a literature student, adds that the concept of using pictorial presentations with poetry was unique and impressive. “The pictures were as fascinating as the recital. I feel that many were able to relate to the poem, as it was based on an original story,” he adds.

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