The Repetition Histoire(s) du théâtre (I)

Venue: National Theater


One night in April of 2012, Ihsane Jarfi gets talking to a group of young men in a grey VW Polo in front of a gay club on a street corner in Liège. Two weeks later he is found dead at the edge of a wood. He had been violently murdered after being tortured for hours. The crime upsets and unsettles the entire city. Milo Rau is reconstructing the case – working with professional and non-professional actors – for the stage.

From the very beginning, theatre has been an incantation of the dead, a ritualized experience of original sins and collective traumas. In The Repetition, the first part of a series curated by Milo Rau titled Histoire(s) du théâtre, the director and author approaches tragedy in the form of a multi- perspective narrative of a criminal case in 5 acts. What is at the beginning of a crime? Intention or coincidence? What part does the audience play? How much is the collective to blame? And who is on stage? Milo Rau and his four actors Sara Bosschere, Sébastien Foucault, Sabri Saad el Hamus and Tom Adjibi, as well as the storeman Fabian Leenders and the dog-sitter Suzy Cocco set out to discover a capital crime, in search of the essential emotions of tragic experiences: loss and grief, truth and falsehood, disaster and fear, cruelty and terror. Six professional and non-professional actors ponder the glamour and depths of life and theatre and slip into the roles of the protagonists involved in a brutal murder case: A manifesto for a democratic theatre of the real emerges.

With this production, Milo Rau will be introducing the series Histoire(s) du théâtre, a performative long-term study on human kind’s oldest art form, which the Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula will be continuing in the 2018/19 season. Rau and his team return to the fundamental problems of their artistic work over the last 15 years: the question of representability of violence and traumatic events on stage – in search of the essence of the fundamentally tragic human condition and in celebration of the power of theatre.

The Repetition is the first production to follow the “Ghent Manifesto” (note 1) – a set of rules which will apply to all productions at the NTGent under the artistic direction of Milo Rau. It was published officially on May 18th 2018 at NTGent.

About Milo Rau

Critics praised him, “the most influential” (DIE ZEIT), “the most awarded” (Le Soir), “the most interesting” (De Standaard) and “the most ambitious” (The Guardian) artist of our time: the Swiss director and artistic director of the NTGent Milo Rau (born 1977). Rau studied sociology, German and Romance languages and literature in Paris, Berlin and Zurich under Pierre Bourdieu and Tzvetan Todorov, among others. Since 2002, he has put out over 50 plays, films, books and actions. His productions have appeared at all of the major international festivals, including the Berlin Theatertreffen, the Festival d’Avignon, the Venice Biennale Teatro, the Wiener Festwochen and the Brussels Kunstenfestivaldesarts, and have toured more than 30 countries worldwide. Rau has received many honours, most recently the Peter- Weiss-Prize 2017, the 3sat-Prize 2017, the 2017 Saarbrucken Poetry Lectureship for Drama and, in 2016, the prestigious World Theatre Day ITI Prize, as youngest artist ever after Frank Castorf and Pina Bausch. In 2017, Milo Rau was voted “Acting Director of the Year” in the critics' survey conducted by the Deutsche Bühne. In 2018 he received the European Theatre Prize, and in 2019 he was awarded the first honorary doctorate by the Theatre Department of Lunds Universitet (Sweden). Rau is also a television critic, lecturer and a very productive writer.


A Civic Movement Leading to the Future - On Milo Rau’s Theater Works

By WANG Shih-wei

Milo Rau declared in the Ghent Manifesto: “the theater is not just about portraying the world anymore. It’s about changing it”. The statement seems to correspond to the ideas of many theater pioneers in the early 20th century that theater is no longer the “art of re-presentation” but rather a social force striving for reform and innovation. However, how would a fleeting performance give play to its political effects and become an opportunity for shaking the reality?

Meticulous Investigation and Bold Creation

As a disciple of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and literary theory master Tzvetan Todorov, Milo Rau holds the view that art creation and academic research share the same spirit of “combat sports”. Rau started his first reporting trips in 1997, and then he worked as an author for Neue Zürcher Zeitung. However, what he is really enthusiastic for is arts. In 2007, Milo Rau established the International Institute of Political Murder, aiming to guide audiences to re-examine the connection between historic myths and contemporary political situations through documentary investigations that seek truth from facts as well as innovative and experimental narratives. Meanwhile, he also tries to discover the “theatricality of the real”.

Exploring the Past and Disclosing the Truth

“Re-enactment” is the core of Milo Rau’s creations. With his works, Rau over and over again re-explores controversial events that are sensitive in the European society. By combing through the historical documents and interviewing those who are involved, he does not only unearth the complicated contexts of events but also expose the mental trauma hidden inside the collective memories of human beings. He thus transforms a performance into a public trial, highlighting the predicament of humanity in the rigid institution through dialectical debates. In The Last Days of the Ceausescus (2009), he re-enacted the historical trial of a dictator to explore how the ideology distorted the rational verdict. In Hate Radio (2011), he demonstrated how the media disseminated the discriminatory speeches that led to the deterioration of hatred among different ethnic groups in Rwanda. In Breivik’s Statement (2012) through the Norwegian terrorist’s statement in the court, he explored how the extreme right- wing used the left-wing past arguments to criticize the new liberalism that had overwhelmed the whole world. Milo Rau’s intention is neither to explain the events from a specific perspective nor to re-build the historical facts, but instead gradually exposes the so-called truth in the process of painstaking investigations, disregarding the difference between the historical facts and media reports, the confusion caused by different ideologies, and the conflicts between recognition and conception among the viewers.

Introducing the Truth and Changing the Reality

By introducing the factual elements, Milo Rau turns the theater into an “event” that is closely related to social reality. In The Moscow Trials (2013), he invited a Russian judge, conservative leaders and human rights lawyers to re-investigate three cases in which the government interferes in the freedom of creation (note). The re-enacted show trial had met with the intervention of the police force and religious groups for several times, and eventually the Russian government even denied the entry of Milo Rau into the country. Later in The Congo Tribunal (2015), Rau once again presented a re-enacted show trial, in which representatives of the judicial sector, civic organizations and the Congolese government jointly debated whether the mining industry had indirectly facilitated the genocide in Congo. The performance shook the political situations in Congo and two ministers were forced to resign as a result. In General Assembly (2017), Rau further gathered civic rights activists from countries all over the world to draft a convention of “anti- globalization” via a democratic process.

Indeed, Milo Rau considers arts as a mean of civic movement and intends to renovate the world with his art creations. His theater is no longer a medium for people to look back upon the past and criticize the reality, but instead a collective action to wake up individual’s consciousness and push forward the historical progress.

Note 1 : Ghent Manifesto
One: It’s not just about portraying the world anymore. It's about changing it. The aim is not to depict the real, but to make the representation itself real.
Two: Theatre is not a product, it is a production process. Research, castings, rehearsals and related debates must be publicly accessible.
Three: The authorship is entirely up to those involved in the rehearsals and the performance, whatever their function may be - and to no one else.
Four: The literal adaptation of classics on stage is forbidden. If a source text – whether book, film or play – is used at the outset of the project, it may only represent up to 20 percent of the final performance time.
Five: At least a quarter of the rehearsal time must take place outside a theatre. A theatre space is any space in which a play has been rehearsed or performed.
Six: At least two different languages must be spoken on stage in each production.
Seven: At least two of the actors on stage must not be professional actors. Animals don’t count, but they are welcome.
Eight: The total volume of the stage set must not exceed 20 cubic metres, i.e. it must be able to be contained in a van that can be driven with a normal driving licence.
Nine: At least one production per season must be rehearsed or performed in a conflict or war zone, without any cultural infrastructure.
Ten: Each production must be shown in at least ten locations in at least three countries. No production can be removed from the NTGent repertoire before this number has been reached.

Note 2 : the three cases include the prosecution of the curators of Caution! Religion and Forbidden Arts respectively in 2003 and 2007 for public order offences and offending the feelings of believers, as well as the trial of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. None of the three trials has been open to the public.

Organizer: National Theater and Concert Hall

◎Approx. 100 minutes without intermission
◎Performed in French and Flemish with Chinese surtitles
◎The performance contains smoking scenes and such special effects as flash light and smoke as well as partial nudity scenes and violence subject matter. Audience discretion is advised.
◎Age Guidance 16+
◎The program is subject to change

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