La Reprise, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh ****
THE director Milo Rau, based in Belgium and Switzerland, calls his theatre company an “institute of political murder”; and there is certainly a profound sense of political pain and sorrow in Rau’s gentle but relentless dissection of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ihsane Jarfi, who disappeared from outside a Liege nightclub in 2012.
Set in the depressed landscape of post-industrial Liege, Rau’s 100-minute show begins with the auditioning of some Liege-based actors for roles in the tragedy; and as fragments of the city’s broken history emerge from their personal stories, the show also begins a powerful inquiry into what theatre can do to give true expression to a story of a dispossessed community, and the victims of its profound alienation, and bruised macho culture.
Using live video fluently and sometimes with searing intensity, through a five-act structure introduced before each chapter by eloquent monochrome images, La Reprise features some of the most thoughtful and profoundly responsible performances you are likely to see in European theatre today, from a company of actors who have all been deeply involved in the development of the work, and who all seem deeply committed to Rau’s “Ghent Manifesto” values, promising theatre that tries to change the world.
Liege actors Tom Adjibi, Suzy Cocco and Fabian Leenders deliver outstandingly intimate and deeply-understood performances as Ihsane, his mother, and one of his killers. And Rau’s production gathers itself to a conclusion full of profound pity and sorrow; one that also embraces a meditation on theatrical tragedy itself, inspired by both by the continuing global struggle against the scourge of homophobia, and by the specific accumulated pain of a city that has”lost its job”, as relevant here in Scotland as it is the post-industrial towns of Belgium, and of northern France.