In Olga Tokarczuk’s fragmentary novel UNRAST, the characters’ bodies are in motion – both the living and the dead bodies. They travel, are ogled, get lost, are dissected. But the way the living treat their dead, what they do with their bodies, who examines whom – these are no minor questions. The treatment of the dead exposes the darkest recesses of a culture or an entire epoch. How a culture, or an entire epoch, treats its dead exposes its darkest recesses.
UNRAST also includes three letters of protest and resistance, signed by Josephine Soliman and addressed to the then reigning Austrian Emperor Francis II (1768–1835). Josephine was the “first documented woman from the Black Austrian community to rebel against the colonial state authority” (Anouk Shad). Her father, Mmadi Make, had been abducted from his West African home and taken to Europe by slave traders. Upon arriving there, he adopted the name Angelo Soliman and rose from his position as a servant to enter the highest ranks in the Habsburg empire, becoming “the most famous Black person in 18th century Vienna” (Shad). After his death, Angelo Soliman’s body was taxidermised and displayed in the Imperial Cabinet of Curiosities for the living to gape at.
In her three emphatic letters, Josephine demands – like an 18th century Antigone – to be allowed to bury her father and give his remains a dignified final resting place. When she fails to receive a response from the emperor, her demand turns to rage. On its surface, Enlightenment thought celebrates science, research, equality, the bourgeois revolution, theatre (indeed, the very principle of observing). But the other side of the picture includes strict hierarchical classifications of the world and “the systematic construct of race theory laid down as a retroactive rationalisation of the atrocities committed by the colonial powers” (Shad).
Inspired by Tokarczuk’s letters, the third production created by the director and author duo Dead Centre for the Akademietheater revolves around the fissure in the fabric of Austrian history created by the treatment of Angelo Soliman’s remains. At the same time, it explores the construct of cultural otherness and the trauma associated with Soliman’s name to this day – as well as the promise of a different kind of world, which is ingrained in his extraordinary life.
Schauspieler / Anatom / Kaiser Franz IIErnest Allan Hausmann,
Antigone / Anatomin / JosephineSafira Robens,
Ismene (Antigones Schwester) / Anatomin / Magdalena (Josephines Mutter)Katrin Grumeth,
Anatom / Wolfgang Amadeus MozartPhilipp Hauß,
Anatom / Abbé Simon EberleJohannes Zirner,
Live KameraJulia Janina Várkonyi,Andrea Gabriel,
|Dauer und Pausen||1 Stunde 30 Minuten - keine Pause|