Friday, March 8, 2019

La Reprise. Photo by Michiel Devijvr


La Reprise (Histoire(s) du theatre(1).

Concept and director. Milo Rau. Text. Milo Rau and ensemble. Performers: Sabri Saad el Hamus. Suzy Cocco, Sebstien Foucault, Fabian Leenders, Tom Adjibi, Kristien de Proost. Research and dramaturgy. Eva-Maria Bertschy in collaboration with Stefan Blke, Carmen Hornbostel, assisted by Francois Pacco. Set and costum design. Anton Lukas, assisted by Patty Eggerick. Video. Maxime Jennes, Dimitri Petrovic. Lighting design Jurgen Kolb. Sound design and technical director. Jens Baudisch. Assistant director. Crmen Hornbostel. Fight choreography. Cedric Cerbara. Vocal coach. Murielle Legrand. Musical arrangement. Gil Mortio. Production Management. Mascha Euchner-Martinez, Eva-Karen Tittmann. The Space Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival 2019 March 4 – 7. 2019

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Add captionLa reprise. hoto by Hubert Amiel


La Reprise (The Repetition) opens with a dissertation on the art of acting by actor Sabri Saad el Hamus. He creates the analogy of a pizza delivery man. The actor is the delivery man but the focus of his job is the pizza. The focus of the performance by the company of Belgian and German actors is the true crime of the murder of a young gay man, Ihsane Jarfi in the steelworks town of Liege.The consequences of chronic unemployment are keenly felt by the community after the steelworks have been shut down. In April 2012 Jarfi got into a VW Polo outside a gay club to show a group of men where they might find some women. Two weeks later he was found dead, brutally and tragically tortured and murdered and then stripped naked and left in an open field to be found by a man walking his dog. The actors set about to reenact the horrible circumstances and impact on the family of this terrible and unnecessary crime.

Sabri Saad al Hamus in La Reprise
However, this is no crime thriller. It is instead a detailed and forensic examination of act and motive, deed and consequence and the every burning question, Why? We are conscious that La Reprise is constructed and performed by an outstanding company of actors. In the tradition of Brechtian unquestioning Verfremdungseffekt, the audience is enticed to remain distant from the emotional engagement with the action of the re-enactment and sit in judgement of behavior and motive as the crime is represented before them.. An audition process, focused on the requirements to play the assigned roles shows us actors, not characters. They will play out characters, but the audience is always aware that they are actors and therefore free to exercise their unimpeded judgement.

The reconstruction of the crime evolves, videoed and performed in French and Flemish with English surtitles  on the screen while actors play out the scenes upon the stage. The split focus is both a distraction and a heightened duplication of the action. The drama is played out in a series of chapters, leading to the final enactment in a car upon the stage and the undressing of the body in an open field. It is horrifying, and yet the audience is compelled to question the behavior of the killers and the fate of the victim. We sit as purveyors and questioners  of human motive, rather than unquestioning perpetrators of unfounded judgement.

Tom Adjibi. Photo Hubert Amiel
Each chapter reveals cause and effect of violence, despair and justice: The Loneliness of Living, The Pain of the. Other. The Banality of Evil. Anatomy of the Crime and The Rabbit in which Jafri’s lover seeks comfort from a clairvoyant. The dead may no longer be seen as real, but like Hamlet’s ghost through the fog, they can represent reality

As the play closes, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father the actor playing Jafri (Tom Adjibi) steps forward  to intone Henry Purcell’s composition of John Dryden’s The Cold Song. No words are spoken. It is as if the dead are speaking to the audience, urging justice. It is an incantation from the grave, as haunting and powerful as Milo Rau’s production. The song ends and Adjibi repeats the story of the actor who places a noose around his neck and tells the audience that he will kick the chair from his feet. The audience has only seconds to act. If they do the actor survives. If not, he dies. In a final challenge to the audience, Adjibi places the noose about his neck. Nobody moves.