This is a fantasy tale. The location shifts within three distinct spaces on stage, yet the audience is privy to all three spaces. One room is boarded by seethrough glass walls, the second consists of chairs with the same design but different colours, and the third is the nerve centre where the futuristic experiment by an American scientist is taking place. The characters on stage represent different nationalities and speak different languages. The surtitles are in Portuguese, a language this reviewer does not understand.
The narrative anchors on a disaster that struck planet earth, causing the disappearance of many loved ones. The characters on stage grieve the loss and are desperate to find a way to communicate with their loved ones. The attempts to console each other gradually transform personal grief into a shared pain. Individual consolations merge into a collective determination to regain what was lost. In the current reality, where we witness on our screens the bombing of civilians in the Ukraine and disasters elsewhere, the narrative seems to resemble something of socio-political reality.
However, in this storyline the fantastic element is the ‘scientific’ attempt to create something akin to a collective heart that would bring back the loved ones. The process of attempting to link to the lost members of the family is neither imaginative nor creative. The grieving members are cajoled to agree to have their memories erased – they are, one by one, connected to flimsy wires which connect them to a large model of a heart. Memory erased. No one to grieve for. The idea may be interesting. However, the production failed to challenge or stimulate emotionally and intellectually. The lengthy repetition of themes extinguished empathy and generated boredom.
Fraternité was written and directed by the French playwright, theatre, and film director Caroline Guiela Nguyen and performed by her company Les Hommes Approximatifs. The group works on “combining fiction and reality and always believing that the human imagination is their greatest weapon”. In this particular case, the reviewer is of the opinion that the production may benefit from an outside creative director, who could have edited the play in a challenging way.
The performance overall is very good with some excellent acting. The set design is simple yet effectively projects moments of tension, raw emotions, and interactions between the characters.
It is an interesting experience to see such an avant-garde play performed to a wrapped audience in Lisbon. The theatre itself is beautiful, and I am most grateful for the opportunity to see a performance staged there.
- By Caroline Guiela Nguyen
- Directed by Caroline Guiela Nguyen
- From: Les Hommes Approximatifs
- Set design: Atelier du Grand T, théâtre de Loire-Atlantique
- Photo credit: Jean Louis Fernandez
- Cast: Dan Artus, Saadi Bahri, Hoonaz Ghojallu, Lamya Regragui, Maïmouna Keita, Nanii, Elios Noël, Alix Petris, Saaphyra, Vasanth Selvam, Hiep Tran Nghia, Anh Tran Nghia, Mahia Zrouki
- São Luiz Theatre Lisboa (Lisbon)
- On 26 & 27 April 2022
- Duration: 3 hours and 10 minutes with 20 min interval
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