Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ritual and Faith in Epic Theater

"[Ariane Mnouchkine's] "Le Dernier Caravansérail" is more Middle Eastern than Eastern. This is a six-hour fresco of interwoven stories and vivid, often searing, sometimes heartwarming memories of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Chechnya, Bosnia and Africa.... "Le Dernier Caravansérail" is more turbulent and intense from moment to moment, literally turbulent in the two spectacular scenes of churning water that open each of its two parts, and with almost naturalistic dialogue....

In "Le Dernier Caravansérail," Ms. Mnouchkine achieves her impact through sometimes cruelly insistent repetition. After the third or fourth time we witness desperate refugees being extorted or terrorized or robbed or prostituted or injured or killed in their efforts to get into England by clinging to the Channel tunnel train, it might all seem too much.

But Ms. Mnouchkine knows what she is doing. The repetition drives home the grinding despair of these people. Which makes the second half of the second part all the more of a relief. These people are still miserable, still desperate. But some find their way home, to destinies painful and heartwarming. And some actually succeed in the new countries in which they have improbably found refuge. The final picnic scene is a downright peaceable kingdom, enriched by ominous undercurrents eerily anticipatory of the recent London bombings."

John Rockwell "Ritual and Faith in Epic Theater of Two Visionaries"
New York Times July 20, 2005


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