Arts and Culture

Review: La Reprise. Histoire(s) du theatre

Posted on: Wed 6 Mar 2019

By Lisa Harper Campbell

Slated as a ‘true-crime story reconstructed’, La Reprise is the haunting Australian debut for much-lauded Swiss director and theatre-maker Milo Rau.

With a diverse, multilingual cast, Rau has created an unflinching investigation into the brutality, fragility and artificiality of life both within and beyond the theatre.

Immediately acknowledging and then dropping any kind of pretence, the performance begins as a single actor details the difficulty in deciding how to start a play, how to engage an audience and ultimately how to do justice to the story about to be told. The audience was immediately drawn in.

This is Rau’s first production since publishing his own manifesto towards what theatre should strive to be. In his own words, The aim is not to depict the real, but to make the representation itself real. This representative strand is explored in detail throughout La Reprise as not only the core crime story, the murder of Ihsane Jarfi, is told but also the story of how this event is adapted to the stage. This allows for an insight into the dramaturgical process; auditions, interviews with those close to Jarfi and these elements juxtaposed with re-enactments of the events leading up to Jarfi’s death.

The intersections between film sequences (both live and pre-recorded) and the live performance on stage were clever. A persistent buzz and other issues with AV equipment and microphones were an unhelpful distraction but not enough to shift the attention of a captivated opening night audience.

For several of these ‘filmed’ scenes, the actors would be ‘acting out’ the same scene on stage. However, the actors purposely did not invest as much emotionally or physically into the ‘recreated’ live scene thereby highlighting an inherent disconnect and distance when one is recreating or retelling as opposed to experiencing certain events.

In his manifesto, Rau also highlights bilingualism, the use of non-professional performers and the inclusion of audio-visual elements in live performance. These are all on display in La Reprise. Predominantly performed in French, we also hear Flemish and smatterings of Arabic.

Dramaturgically, this is a fascinating piece of theatre. It is mechanical yet moving, confronting yet captivating. La Reprise is translated as ‘the repetition’ as the troupe repeat again and again the story of Jarfi and how that story came to be on stage. The framework of a trial calls for repetition, the repetition of memories, testimonies, statements in a variety of contexts. Repetition is also the French word for rehearsal. This is a true cathartic tragedy as Rau and his ensemble ask us to engage with our deepest, darkest emotions and then release them in a climactic, theatrical finale.

It is often by repetition that we hold things in our memory, in La Reprise, the memorialising of Ihsane Jarfi, and its subsequent staging, manifests in moments that are humorous, heart-breaking and human.

La Reprise. Histoire(s) du théâtre (I) will continue its Adelaide Festival season at Space Theatre until Thursday March 7.

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