(A.J. Goldmann’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/7/22; via Pam Green; Photo: The ensemble in “Oasis de la Impunidad” (“Oasis of Impunity”), directed by Marco Layera, at the Schaubühne’s Festival International for New Drama, or FIND.Credit…Gianmarco Bresadola.)
At Berlin’s FIND festival of new international drama, several productions use transcripts to explore questions of state power and identity.
BERLIN — Outside a small stage at the Schaubühne theater here on Tuesday evening, a sign cautioned that the Chilean production “Oasis de la Impunidad” (“Oasis of Impunity”) featured strobe lights and onstage nudity.
In retrospect, that caveat seemed comical, a bit like warning viewers that a Tarantino film might be somewhat bloody. Over the play’s 90-minute run time, the audience sat in stunned silence as a band of eight performers enacted a macabre and ritualistically precise examination of violence’s corrosive effect on the individual and the social body. Scenes of torture and violence, including sexual violence, tumbled forth with balletic elegance. The production’s delicacy of feeling and theatrical finesse were disturbingly at odds with the horrors it depicted.
Created by the director Marco Layera and his company La Re-Sentida, “Oasis de la Impunidad” is a harrowing artistic response to Chile’s recent wave of social unrest, which has been described as the country’s worst since the end of the Pinochet regime. Like the other standout productions at the Schaubühne’s Festival International for New Drama, or FIND, “Oasis” takes nightmarish and surreal contemporary events as starting points for provocative theatrical explorations.
In late 2019, Chile was convulsed by social unrest after a fare hike on the Santiago subway inspired mass demonstrations and riots against rising inequality. The government declared a state of emergency and deployed the army to restore law and order. In the first weeks of unrest, 18 people were killed and nearly 3,000 detained, including hundreds of women and children, according to a report issued by the National Institute for Human Rights. Since then, there have been numerous reports of security forces torturing and raping protesters.
To develop “Oasis,” Layera held a series of theater labs and workshops in Chile. Two hundred people participated, including many survivors of state-sponsored repression and brutality. The resulting show, described as “an investigation into the origins and mechanisms of violence,” is a series of sinister and menacing episodes laced with dark comedy.
At the Schaubühne, the actors, a mix of professionals and nonprofessionals, pulled on their genitalia, pinched their teeth and flesh with tools, erupted into paroxysms of hysteria and grief, and lovingly exhibited broken, bloodied bodies in a fun house of horrors. After its world premiere in Berlin, the show will travel to Santiago, Chile, in late May.