Climbing the smooth stone stairs across the square from the Church of Saint Peter in Matera, Italy, where Jesus’s trial was filmed the previous day, one could not help but be taken aback by the combination of the film crews’ various cameras and microphones and the swaths of curious tourists hanging over the stone walls above. Following a procession of Materans dressed as Roman citizens, we – those people following this Biblical procession – clambered up a few steps only to have to stop, climb back down and start the assent once again.
The initially large group of “tourists” enlisted to follow the procession of booing and leering Judeans – themselves following Jesus and his cross – dwindled as the minutes of filming ticked on and the number of steps failed to decrease. As the procession of Rau tourists1 dispersed, a growing number of people who had travelled to Matera for the heritage site (or perhaps to catch a glimpse of the new James Bond film) leaned over the stone walls. As the procession approached the top of the steps, I glanced around – one of the procession’s few remaining “tourists”– to find myself surrounded by a sea of cameras. The director at the heart of it all hollered excitedly through his bullhorn: “Once more… but this time without the tourists!”
Swiss-German director Milo Rau – the man with the bullhorn – is famous for repertoire (rehearsed and scripted) productions that build on the autobiographic experiences of their actors and for unscripted, political action performances. His projects are concerned with the representation of a hyper-self. This concept of the hyper-self gestures to an overtly presentational quality, highlighted by Rau’s use of direct address. Direct address refers specifically to how Rau’s actors – both professional and non-professional – speak outwards, past the fourth wall, and directly to the audience. In repertoire productions, this direct address marks what could be described as a Brechtian theory of acting. However, in political actions – staged trials, tribunals, assemblies, political rallies – this overtly presentational performance style is already present in their real world counterparts. Yet we cannot forget that what we see on stage and screen is heavily edited and carefully controlled versions of the self. This careful control and curation of the self points to the importance of vigilance in Rau’s work. We see no more than what the actor (political, professional, or non-professional) and the director want us to see. We are presented with essentialized selves. Selves that neatly fit within the world and political message of the theatrical project. Selves that show little interest in the complexity of the individual in the real world, only as they exist within the project’s rigid parameters.Milo Rau and the Performative Panopticon weiterlesen
- We cannot really call those following the procession true tourists because they, like myself, had travelled to Matera not for the UNESCO world heritage site, but for Rau and The New Gospel. [↩]