The Adelaide Festival
The Space
Until 07 Mar 2019

Review by Sarah Westgarth

The Australian premiere of ‘La Reprise’ (translated to ‘The Repetition’) is theatre that challenges and confronts, bending the very constructs the performance is based around. Developed by Milo Rau, the play is centred around the true story of the brutal murder of Ihasne Jarfi, a 32 year old Belgian man who was beaten and killed in a homophobic attack in April 2012. ‘La Reprise’ not only explores the details and aftermath of the crime, but also becomes about the very act of representing such a thing on the stage. The play is just as much about theatre itself as it is about Ihasne Jarfi, and the result is an unconventional, non-linear exploration of humanity, hate, and the relationship between actor and audience.

The production follows Milo Rau’s ‘Ghent Manifesto’, a set of rules which apply to all of his theatrical work. It states that ‘the aim is not to depict the real, but to make the representation itself real’. Every aspect of the show reminds the audience that they are watching a play; for example, the opening is an extensive re-enactment of the casting process. The actors regularly break character to directly address the audience, discussing their personal connection to the story, recount parts of the trial, or explain the rehearsal process. This is not to say they are aiming to disconnect or alienate the audience in the tradition of Brecht, but rather confront what is both lost and gained in the act of representing real life. Rau utilises both live and prerecorded footage throughout the play, establishing yet another layer in the reconstruction of truth.

‘La Reprise’ makes no attempt to understand or explain the senseless and cruel attack on Ihasane Jarfi, because it knows there is no explanation to be found. Instead, it asks the audience to think about the various aspects of the crime, in a raw and direct way. There is no pretention or affectation in this production; it does not condescend to the viewer or offer any grand answers. Instead, it allows for thought and questioning, yet not without provoking an emotional response as well.

The violence committed against the LGBTQI+ community cannot be overstated; according to the Human Rights Commission, 75% of people who identify as LGBTQI+ in Australia have experienced some type of bullying, harassment, or violence based on their sexual orientation, and it has been reported that at least four men were attacked in Sydney during the recent Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras weekend. ‘La Reprise’ highlights the atrocity of such attacks, while also never allowing Ihasne Jarfi’s tragedy to be exploited, or for him to be purely defined by his sexuality or the details of his death. By laying bare the bones of the production process, Rau creates a truly unique and authentic experience for his audience. Performed in multiple languages by a combination of professional and non-professional actors, and utilising multimedia, confronting imagery, and metatextual references, ‘La Reprise’ will offer something different to everyone who attends. It is unflinching in its approach, and meticulously crafted in a way that makes it seem spontaneous. This is not conventional theatre; instead, it is a challenge to those conventions, in a deeply complex exploration of what happens when seemingly ordinary people commit a heinous crime, and how we then tell those stories.