Friday, June 5, 2015

Faki: Paulina

The Mexican-US border is a awful scenario, exponentially getting worse. This was the case even before 1994's NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that saw thousands of US companies set up shanty towns just over the border, another happy new frontier for capitalism, in search of lower wages, less rights, less protection, and a freely exploitable workforce (read: the usual). Mix this in with the social problems from a sudden influx of workers without infrastructure or housing, long history of drug trade and human trafficking and you gotcha selfa helluva neoliberal cocktail, buoy.

If that sounds bitter, it's difficult to look at a work like Paulina, adapted from the play La Casa de la Fuerza (The House of Strength) by Catalonian playwright Angela Liddell about the 2008 rape and murder of the titular 16 year old girl, without a heavy dose of anger about how these circumstances were created in the first place, nor a sense that this is not an individual case. Performer Clémence Caillouel never lets us forget this - by staring at us in a kind of clown-like accusation for the entire 50-minute duration of Paulina. The text is haunting - taking as its recurring theme a song about rag dolls - but it almost feels unneccessary in the face of this optical assault. Caillouel's at once pathetic, at once powerful glare asks a tragic, silent question about the rape and murder of a human being. In some sense it's an old question, also raising an old paradox seemingly destined to recur until the end of time - in what supposedly ethical world can this happen?

The sad tradition of this question is echoed by Caillouel's own reverence for the theatre act - at one point askind an audience member to leave as their phone rang - and whilst I'm not normally one to champion those ettiquettes, here it does feel like a violation of trust. There is something precious, something undisturbable or sacred, about the theatrical act here - something associated with memory, something fragile and delicate about the assault.

Paulina is a theatrical arguement about the power of the look, and an attempt to reclaim that power in the name of those who have had it employed violently against them.

Adapted from La Casa de la Fuerza by Angélica Liddell, 
Directed by Jessica Walker 
Performed by Clémence Cailloue

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