Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek wrote the play Die Schutzbefohlenen in 2013 as a reaction to the increasingly harrowing refugee problem in Europe. For Jelinek, the figure of the refugee is a self-evident starting point for examining the situation in contemporary Europe and discussing norms and values, the place of religion and the responsibility of political leadership.
We see images and hear commentary about refugees and migrants on a daily basis, but do we actually understand the ‘refugee crisis’ any better because of it? Could it be that the seriousness and extent of the refugee crisis exceed the possibilities of theatre and theatrical representation? Could it be that art, despite all good intentions – and maybe precisely because of those good intentions – cannot avoid aestheticizing (and therefore also neutralizing) the suffering of others?
Guy Cassiers has interpreted Jelinek’s script as a polyphony of voices and themes portrayed by four actors (Katelijne Damen, Abke Haring, Han Kerckhoffs and Lucas Smolders). They give a voice to the asylum seekers who are not granted a voice in Europe, to the refugees whose stories and requests are something that people do not want to hear, to those who are denied the very right to exist.
As a contrast to this flow of words, Cassiers introduces the highly physical presence of a group of 16 dancers choreographed by the French choreographer Maud Le Pladec. Cassiers and Le Pladec have worked together before, in 2015, on the opera Xerse at Opéra de Lille. Just recently, in June 2016, Le Pladec was appointed as the new director of the Centre Chorégraphique National d’Orléans.
For this Dutch-language production, 16 dancers from the Antwerp Conservatoire have been selected: Samuel Baidoo, Pieter Desmet, Julia Godina Llorens, Meike Stevens, Pauline Van Nuffel, Sandrine Wouters, Marcus Alexander Roydes, Berta Fornell Serrat, Alexa Moyo, Aki Iwamoto, Hernan Manchebo Martinez, Bianca Zueneli, Daan Jaarsveld, Machias Bosschaerts, Sarah Fife and Lukacks Levente.
Together with the dancers, Maud Le Pladec will be developing a choreography based on a number of dramaturgical principles that she and Guy Cassiers determine. When the show goes on tour in France and Spain next season, the choreography will be taught to a new set of dancers recruited by the European partners there.
Borderline premieres on 4 May 2017 at the Bourla Theatre in Antwerp.