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Returning to Reims

Directed by Thomas Ostermeier

Schaubühne Berlin

HOME, 8 July 2017


Photo by Jonathan Keenan

It is a European affair.

Appearing as part of this year’s Manchester International Festival, Returning to Reims is an adaptation of Didier Eribon’s memoir Retour a Reims. Schaubühne Berlin produced the play and the German actress Nina Hoss, star of Barbara, takes the lead. And the performance, as well as some of the cinematic content, for example the mistaking of minds between Gordon Brown and a certain Mrs Duffy in the fair town of Rochdale, is in English.

The director Thomas Ostermeier describes Returning to Reims as a play about populism and in particular a play about ‘the role of the left in the rise of the right’. And as such it is more of a discourse, or a discussion piece, than a drama – though the conflict between Eribon’s sexuality and his working class roots adds some much needed human interest. As political discourse, the play provides few comforts or solutions – probably because there aren’t any – and we will likely keep trundling along until another crisis (financial, migrant, environmental…) hits home. Communism is dead in the water, it came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, though a few brave souls like Slavoj Zizek, bless him, are still holding out for revolution. Neoliberalism was found wanting when the financial crash hit in 2008, but most mainstream politicians – whose stupidity and / or venality should not be underestimated – still behave as though it offers a viable model of how the world works. It doesn’t: which means that they, and so we, will come to grief. When you have no grip on reality, you will be punished. Inevitably.

Returning to Reims is playing as part of the Manchester International Festival and is at HOME until 14 July. Details here.