By Lisa Lanzi
This is the first time Australians will be exposed to the work of prolific Swiss-born director Milo Rau (Since 2002, he has put out over 50 plays, films, books and actions). He has a particular approach to theatre creation as stated in his Ghent Manifesto, a ten point ‘rulebook’ for NT Gent, the Belgian Theatre Company he is now leading. La Reprise is the first production to follow these rules. “The aim is not to depict the real, but to make the representation itself real”.
La Reprise is possibly one of the most confronting productions I have ever viewed. In six scenes we are led through aspects of a violent murder case - that of Ihsane Jafri, a thirty-two year old gay Muslim who in April 2012 was tortured and beaten viciously then left to die on the outskirts of Liège. It is one thing to watch a police drama or ‘true crime’ documentary on television in two dimensions and quite another to observe actors recreating - reprising - extreme violence-as-truth on stage.
The matter-of-fact set on the spare black stage of The Space Theatre is arranged so that each scene has a ‘home’ but with a large empty area where other action can occur. The lighting is mostly dim and shadowy with occasional moments of bright, interrogative glare. In addition to the actors on stage there is a camera operator, digital video camera on a tripod and screen so that each section of the play can be filmed from different angles with real-time projection as counterpoint to the on-stage exploits. This ‘doubling’ of the action imparts a voyeuristic feel so that audience members become both salacious viewers and righteous witnesses. In life Jafri died alone. In this recreation he has us to behold, corroborate and honour his passing.
Performers Sabri Saad el Hamus, Suzy Cocco, Sébastien Foucault, Fabian Leenders, Tom Adjibi and Kristie De Proost are flawless, totally focussed and present yet somehow informal and clinical at times, which only serves to heighten the atrocity. They sometimes address the audience as themselves to frame a scene and discuss questions of life and theatre, then seamlessly step into the multi-perspective narrative to assume roles of the key characters in this tragedy.
One of Rau’s rules states : The authorship is entirely up to those involved in the rehearsals and the performance, whatever their function may be - and to no one else. To this end, Rau and his performers interviewed family and friends of the deceased plus one of the perpetrators; they researched the case in great detail and built the work from there. The piece is conceived and directed by Milo Rau but both he and the cast are credited with creating the text. There is a long list of collaborators for dramaturgy, technical assistance and design however, the completeness of La Reprise is what shines - the whole being far greater than the sum of its many parts.
An unforgettable experience!
Photo Credit: Hubert Amiel
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.