State of shock’
Bolsonaro’s arrival in power has dealt the equivalent of an electric shock to the Brazilian cultural scene. A politician who has spoken with nostalgia of the 1964-85 military dictatorship, he had barely received the seals of office when he vowed to rid the country of “cultural marxism.” He also reduced the status of the culture ministry to a mere section of a newly-created ministry of citizenship. For Jatahy, the world of theatre has oscillated between “anaesthesia, as we are still in a state of shock, and the production of numerous plays which do talk about the situation. “It is impossible not to think of theatre as political today,” she says, given the current context. “The Lingering Now” (O Agora que demora) is not a piece of theatre in the classic sense, but rather an epic documentary blended with fiction which flits from film to stage and back again. The audience follows protagonists filmed variously in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Greece and Amazonia. They are themselves refugees yet also actors in real life, plucked from Beirut, the Jenin refugee camp and Johannesburg’s Hillbrow Theatre, ‘home’ notably to actors who have fled Zimbabwe and Malawi. The theatre piece, which will tour Europe from September, follows their respective journeys as each reads, in their own language, extracts of the Odyssey before switching to recounting their own journey into exile. Some characters seen recounting their fate on film also appeared in the flesh at Avignon — including Yara, a young Syrian woman who survived imprisonment to tell her tale firsthand through theatre. Closer to home for Jatahy herself, she also elicits the life stories of two Kayapo Indians from Brazil’s Amazonia. She takes classical literary inspiration as her cue in recounting the struggles faced by today’s displaced people. “Odysseus is each of us while the Cyclops,” the one-eyed giant who clashes with Odysseus in Greek mythology as narrated by Homer in the epic poem, “can be dictators, tanks of war,” explains Jatahy. She began working on her latest oeuvre before Bolsonaro took office and initially wanted to film Venezuelan refugees in Brazil.