With characteristic invention, Ariane Mnouchkine, one of Europe’s most visionary stage directors, had the actors of Le Théâtre du Soleil improvise refugee stories based on what they’d gathered in a lifetime of newspaper reading before showing them the extraordinary letters on which THE LAST CARAVANSERAIL is based. Selected letters – written by Iranian, and Kurdish refugees held in France, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand – were then organized into an episodic, non-linear, structure that honors and recalls Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, manifold tales of war, no matter its cause, and its consequences. The 6-hour play, presented in two parts, neither points its finger at the West nor portrays the refugees as saintly; what it does is give dimension to withering statistics.
In this epic of fate-driven existence told in few words but many languages, no actor’s foot touches the ground. Instead, everyone and everything rolls on- and off-stage in wheeled carts, pushed and pulled across stormy seas, scorching deserts and bitter snowfields in dozens of tales of myriad aspects of exile and flight. The dispossessed are variously referred to as refugees, stowaways, illegal aliens, migrants and worse, but call themselves a nobler name – “voyagers.” Brutally packaged in holds and trucks spilling across borders and into ports, they are driven by belief, naïve faith really, in the possibility of freedom and respect. How will they know when they have arrived? —theatermania.com
Mnouchkine, Ariane (b. 1934). French theatre and film director, founder of the Théâtre du Soleil. Although her film Molière, une vie (1979) is highly regarded for its interpretation of Molière’s theatrical career and its cinematic inventiveness, she is best known for her successful experiments in création collective. In reaction to the arguably excessive power of theatre directors, she created the Théâtre du Soleil as a workers’ collective, seeking to make the theatrical process a shared responsibility. Its work is underpinned by left-wing political convictions and a desire to make theatre accessible and relevant to ordinary people. The company has experimented with diverse performance styles, from circus and commedia dell’arte to Japanese kabuki and bunraku. Its aim is to fabricate a new theatrical language with which to interpret social and political themes. Its first major success was the celebrated 1789 (1970), an exuberant interpretation of the French Revolution in a popular fairground… read more