In the Name of the Lord

This was the title of a play performed on the second night of the IFTR Congress in Belgrade and I wanted to simply note here how important it felt as an intervention into the current debates around immigration and xenophobia swirling around us everywhere

The play-stylistically more of an Avante Garde “happening” than a play–unfolded with 3 male actors and one female all reciting the liturgy dresses in costumes of the Orthodox Church. The prayer recitation went on long and seriously enough to make the audience wonder whether we were in church or in the theatre (is there a difference?)– and then, abruptly, the tone and the pace changed and the “play” became a collage of scenes one more bizarre and unsettling than the other.

Suddenly, for instance, the nice, kind preaching of tolerance and acceptance in the house of God turned into a rant by the same voices who morphed into ugly characters screaming that Muslims were overrunning their lands bringing filth and violence into their “pure” communities

There was even a surreal scene in which the characters on stage- reminding me very much of the hoodlums in A Clockwork Orange–bring a pig onstage and proceed to slaughter and screw it…. gross, yes, but very evocative too

And then the characters donned Muslim clothing including the hijab (the sole female performer puts it in and completely transforms from a half naked punk to a modest Muslim woman)–to recite long passages of Islamic prayer in perfect Arabic accents. The woman proceeded to lecture everyone in the superiority of Islam in giving respect and protection to its womenfolk compared to the objectified way in which European Christian women are treated in society.

No one escapes the incisive, biting satirical eye of the playwright/director – Andras Urban- who is a leading figure of the Serbo-Hungarian theatre world and with whom I had the chance to briefly exchange a few words after the play was over. He told me that much of it had developed in conjunction with the actors over a period of rehearsals and improvs–like devised theatre.

I found the work to be quite brilliant and enlightening in terms of exposing the truth of what even the most “tolerant” and “liberal” people think/feel deep down when they think their comfy way of life is under threat by an alien other. The Other too is never an innocent cipher either- no entity is a complete “pure” victim. We are all enmeshed in these struggles for power and recognition and must struggle always to retain some modicum of humanity. Not easy when centuries of mistrust and enmity are the backdrop of what appears on the surface to be a new, contemporary problem

Sigh.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

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