By MIF, De Balie and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Lyric Theatre, The Lowry
12 July 2019
‘Please do not waste this time.’
Re:Creating Europe must be classed as an opportunity missed, unfortunately. What you were led to expect from the billing was an interrogation, which would be both nuanced and rigorous, of the idea of Europe (which would naturally include but would not be limited to the EU). What you got instead was a few quotes from European writers (for example, Goethe, Shakespeare and Donne: unsurprisingly that ‘No man is an island’ line cropped up) together with video clips and speeches (read aloud) from various grotesque, intellectually enfeebled politicians and even a couple of spillover speeches taken from The Fountainhead (the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s production of a couple of nights before) which were not in fact about Europe at all. It was cobbled together to no particular purpose. Just another Brexitfest.
To be fair, the opener was a considered, coherent effort. Michael Morpurgo gave a speech entitled Phoenix of Peace. His thesis here was that there had been peace in Europe for about 75 years and we should thank the EU for it, despite its faults, and we should aim to stay in or stay close to it. Remain and reform, the usual shtick. There is something to be said for this point of view, but he misses a fair few points.
For one thing, there was a cold war in Europe from 1945 – which is not peace exactly, certainly not from the point of view of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. For another thing, what prevented the cold war becoming a full blown affair was not the EU but NATO (an organisation not mentioned at all by Morpurgo): American tanks in Berlin, the nuclear deterrent. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was war in Europe, in the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo, and the EU (and, to be fair, the UN too) were ineffectual in bringing about peace. It was left to NATO to do the job. You are drawn to the conclusion that the best way for European nations to ensure peace in Europe is to meet their NATO commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defence. Britain does this, yet many others (Germany, France and Italy among them) do not. And so on…
Certain good, even great European writers have made the case for the unification of Europe. For example, Stefan Zweig thought that Switzerland – a peaceful country with Italian, French and German communities – would make a good model. Switzerland has never shown any desire to actually join the EU, and in recent months the EU seems to be becoming quite antagonistic toward it Zweig was not quoted in this show, unfortunately.
Re:Creating Europe was showing at The Lowry as part of the Manchester International Festival 2019. Further details can be found here.