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Grim play makes China debut

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-06 07:34
Five Easy Pieces (top), a theatrical production about Belgian child murderer and pedophile, Marc Dutroux, and Three Sisters (above) are being shown in Beijing, as part of the Theatertreffen in China 2018. PHILE DEPREZ/SANDRA THEN/CHINA DAILY

Seven children and a director are at the rehearsals-the young actors slip effortlessly into their different roles: a police officer, a victim, the parents of a dead girl and the murderer's father. The locations swap between the scene of a crime, a funeral ceremony or an everyday moment from the life of Victor Dutroux.

For those of a certain age, that surname might ring a bell, offering a clue as to the play's subject matter.

Five Easy Pieces, by Swiss theater director Milo Rau and his International Institute of Political Murder, is the grim tale of Belgian child murderer and pedophile, Marc Dutroux, controversially performed with children between the ages of 8 and 14-and listed as one of the 10 "most remarkable productions" at renowned German-language theater festival, Theatertreffen, in 2017.

The 100th performance of Five Easy Pieces will be shown in Beijing on Saturday, as part of the Theatertreffen in China 2018, with one more performance in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, on Thursday. The play was also shown in Tianjin on Tuesday.

Theatertreffen is an annual, two-week festival in Berlin that takes place in May and reflects the highest level of contemporary theater.

In 2015, Wu Promotion signed a five-year agreement with Thomas Oberender, director of the Berliner Festspiele, paving the way for the Berlin Theatertreffen to present shows in China from 2016 to 2020.

Each year, a jury of theater experts from China and Germany will select some productions from the 10 performances staged in Berlin to be presented in China. This year, at the 3rd Theatertreffen in China, one of those will be Five Easy Pieces. The play, based on testimonies and reconstructions of actual events, mercilessly breaks through the taboos of our age, as Rau uses the biography of Belgium's most notorious criminal to sketch a brief history of the country and to reflect on the representation of human feelings on the stage.

Five Easy Pieces probes the limits of what children know, feel and do. Purely aesthetic and theatrical questions blend together with moral issues: How can children understand the real significance of narrative, empathy, loss, subjection, old age, disappointment or rebellion?

"It not only represents the criminal's life experience through the children's acting, but also shows the rebellious spirit of the children with their bravery, resistance and courage," says Jeroen Versteele, dramaturge of the director of the Berliner Festspiele, at the kick-off event for the Theatertreffen in China.

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