For the past two years, Professor Sara Jones (Modern Languages) has been working with the Catalan theatre company, La Conquesta del Pol Sud and the Romanian and German novelist Carmen-Francesca Banciu to produce a play that stages the life and literature of the author who was a dissident in Ceausescu’s Romania.
The play is one major outcome of the AHRC-funded follow-on project Testimony in Practice. The performance draws on Sara’s work on the ways in which testimony is mediated through culture and memory, and her research on memorialisation in Central and Eastern Europe. Carmen-Francesca will be performing her own testimony in dialogue with her daughter Meda Gheorghiu Banciu (who is a professional actor). The play – A Land Full of Heroes – is premiering at the Birmingham European (BE) Festival at 12.00 on the 6 July.
A Land Full of Heroes follows the life of Romanian writer Carmen-Francesca Banciu. Having grown up within the rigid ideologies of the Romanian communist regime, she remembers her life-changing trip to Berlin in 1990, a year after the fall of the wall and immediately following the Romanian revolution in Bucharest; was Berlin the mirage of a new European vision? Halfway between journalistic research and theatrical re-imagining, La Conquesta del Pol Sud recreates in 2019 her compelling Bucharest-Berlin trip made in 1990.
The team are currently rehearsing the play in Berlin and are holding open sessions on the 21 and 30 June 2019.
At the first session on the 21 June, they will present their work in progress followed by a dialogue between Sara and Annette Leo (historian and biographer). The focus will be on socialist education and the relationship between generations, Berlin 1989 and socialist biographies – including the testimonies gathered in the second part of Testimony in Practice through an online campaign calling for Central and Eastern Europeans in the UK to contribute their stories to a virtual exhibition. The testimonies will form the basis of an innovative and intermedial art exhibition being produced by project partners, Centrala Space.
At the second open session on the 30 June, the team will present an open rehearsal of A Land full of Heroes followed by a dialogue with dramaturg Aljoscha Begrich (i.a. HAU, Gorki, Rimini Protokoll) about the use of real life testimonies in art. The discussion will focus on two questions: How can the theatre guide us towards a direct understanding of the world? How can we offer the viewer, a part of society, the opportunity to draw conclusions by directly accessing the sources?
There is more information about the making of the play on the project website