Anyone who got the chance to see “Everything Begins By Loving Someone” directed by Secil Honeywill at the Arcola Theatre tent, could not have left without wanting to get on a plane straight to Istanbul. This bilingual Turkish and English stage adaptation of six of Sait Faik Abasıyanık’s short stories transports you into the everyday life of Istanbul and the sea. The Turkish writer Sait Faik was a people’s man and this stage production of his work demonstrated how in touch he was with people’s inner lives recounting their fears, hopes, pleasures and hardships.
“Everything Begins By Loving Someone” is divided into 6 acts based on the short stories “Coffeehouse”, “Poolside”, “The Armenian Fisherman and the Lame Seagull”, “Share”, “The Mirror on the Beach” and “The Stelyanos Hrisopulos”.
The stage was set up as a Turkish coffee house on a port with seagulls over head, a small fishing boat at the front and a projection of a ferry boat taking off from Istanbul on a screen in the background. In the opening scene of “Coffeehouse” are two young friends, one who has just got back from London and cannot wait to visit the island. Her friend gives her some Simit, a seeded bread (which I’m told is traditionally thrown into the air to be eaten by the seagulls above) and a book of short stories by her favourite writer, Sait Faik. As they read the book together, the audience watch the stories come to life around them.
The short stories were well-selected for the stage and moved from comedy to tragedy seamlessly. For instance, there was a great comedic moment where a couple from the countryside are visiting Istanbul and the husband says that his enthusiastic wife just walks around the city “giggling at everything”. The facial expressions of these two actors are hysterical while they sit with a very introspective and love sick young man ( Haydar Köyel) who doesn’t seem very interested in chatting with the two country bumpkins. Later on, the mood changes quite abruptly with a tragic scene where a young boy has to stand by while his mother sells herself to make some extra money for the family.
There are so many wonderful performances throughout. I particularly enjoyed Ece Özdemiroğlu who is fantastic as the singing waitress in the cafe wisely reminding the young visitors to the island that they will miss all the beauty around them if they are so “glued to their phone screens all the time”. Ece showed great depth and range later as she has to interpret the previously mentioned desperate mother trying to get by. I also thought that Köyel who was present in almost every story gave a heartfelt performance and seemed to incarnate Faik himself.
The stories were all so rich with the culture and traditions of Turkey. The simplicity of these human stories made them so relateable even if you have never been to the country. I found myself surrounded by many Turks in the audience and nostalgia was in the air. It was easy to see why this production managed to recreate a truly authentic atmosphere in Dalston.
The Arcola proposes theatre which transcends language and cultural boundaries. I am certainly looking forward to future bilingual productions.