A discussion with the director about his artistic strategy.
28, 29.06, 19:00, Live performance: THE REPETITION. HISTOIRE(S) DU THÉÂTRE (I)
Screenings of films / recordings of performances and debates:
24.06, 14:30 THE CONGO TRIBUNAL
24.06, 16:15 FIVE EASY PIECES
24.06, 18:15 ORESTES IN MOSUL. THE MAKING OF
25.06, 11:00 LAM GODS
25.06, 13:00 THE NEW GOSPEL
25.06, 16:00 ROUND TABLE ON THE WORK OF MILO RAUA
25.06, 20:00 SCHOOL OF RESISTANCE
27.06, 11:00 MEETING WITH MILO RAU
27.06, 14:45 MEETING WITH STEVEN HEENE
27.06, 16.00 JUST ASKING: FILM?
Milo Rau was born in 1977 in Bern, Switzerland. Educated as a sociologist, he went on to become a theatre and film director, and a journalist. Since 2018, he has been the artistic director of NTGent in Ghent. In 2007, he founded the International Institute of Political Murder (IIPM) with whom he has created most of his performances, films and books (The Last Days of the Ceausescus, Breivik’s Statement, Hate Radio, Five Easy Pieces, The Repetition and The New Gospel) in addition to organising debates and conferences. His shows deal with historic and contemporary conflicts, crime and present-day taboos. The actual name of the group is a reference to an uncompleted project about Claus von Stauffenberg’s unsuccessful assassination of Hitler.
A large part of Milo Rau’s performances are reconstructions of real events. The director uses archive material and tries to present many points of view: he calls witnesses, allows victims or their loved ones to speak and appoints experts. The actors (both professional and nonprofessional, from various backgrounds and cultures, speakers of different languages) take part in the research process and gathering information, contributing to all the scripts. In some cases, they appear as the characters of a reconstruction or drama, and in other, under their own name.
Milo Rau’s theatre is based on cooperation and solidarity. This manifests at the creative level, as well as in the selection of themes and locations. Rau strongly believes that in a globalised world we cannot pretend that other people’s problems do not concern us. The West is present in every country, no matter how distant and exotic, in the form of international corporations, the World Bank or large NGOs. The climate crisis and neo-colonialism know no boundaries. To confront them, ‘we need,’ he says, ‘new practices, new ways of thinking, a new parliament, a new political sensitivity and a new global intelligence.’
The process of developing these qualities has involved members and guests of the symbolic institutions created by Rau: The Congo Tribunal and the General Assembly. The former was a theatrical tribunal in eastern Kongo, researching the background of the war in the region of the African Great Lakes. The latter was a theatrical arbitration process and a political debate on the weakness of the UN and the EU, and the need to create a civic world parliament to deal with global problems. The participants of this project focused on how to resist the power of large corporations and the international institutions they work with, such as the World Bank. They discussed how to collectively transform the postcapitalist cultural and economic politics for the common good and how to build cross-border alliances. According to Milo Rau, ‘there is no such thing as “realistic” thinking and acting … The Belgian state was created out of nothing, and … this applies to all states and all state institutions. They are based on the agreement of their citizens to share a common destiny. Reality comes from utopia.’ The most important rule of the manifesto Rau created after becoming the director of NTGent is ‘not about portraying the world anymore. It’s about changing it. The aim is not to depict the real, but to make the representation itself real.’
The Manifesto is a set of ten rules declared at NTGent in 2018. It mentions the hiring of foreign-language and non-professional actors, as well as groups of activists. In other words, it is about involving outsiders in the regular cast, about theatre’s outreach to people and to non-theatrical locations, including non-European ones. The manifesto is an attempt to confront the limitations of the traditional city theatre. Rau works from the bottom up to change peoples’ thinking and perception of reality, whilst contributing to expanding the institutional and imagined boundaries of theatre. He combines activism and art and does not avoid provocation. He uses form not to soften but to reinforce the subject of his productions. For example, Five Easy Pieces, which is about the notorious case of the Belgian paedophile and child killer Marc Dutroux, is performed by children. Rau’s is a theatre of community, solidarity and the common good, which is simultaneously based on controversy, emotions and artistic risk.
Milo Rau’s performances have toured over 30 countries across the world. They have been shown at major international theatre festivals, including the Berliner Theatertreffen, the Festival d’Avignon, the Biennale di Venezia, the Wiener Festwochen and the Brussels Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Furthermore, Rau is the holder of numerous accolades. The most recent ones include the Peter-Weiss Prize 2017, the 3sat Prize 2017, the 2017 Saarbrucken Poetry Lectureship for Drama and the prestigious World Theatre Day ITI Prize which he won in 2016 as the youngest artist since Frank Castorf and Pina Bausch. In 2018, he also won the Europe Theatre Prize. Critics have called him ‘the most influential’ (Die Zeit), ‘the most distinguished’ (Le Soir), ‘the most interesting’ (De Standaard) and ‘the most ambitious’ (The Guardian) artist of our time.