Photo by Nihad Nino Pušija
Playing at the Delphi this month, The Journey/Drom turns the Balkan migration crisis into a live talk show.
A story about the plight of the Roma people, caught between discrimination in the Western Balkans and rejection in Germany, has the potential to get pretty bleak. Since Germany added more Balkan countries to its “safe list” last year, the chance the community has at gaining asylum here has become virtually non-existent. Sounds like the perfect fodder for a serious documentary or overly sentimental dramatisation, but leave it to the team at Delphi, the former silent film house turned alt performance venue, to turn it into something totally unexpected. An international collaboration helmed by Delphi artistic director Brina Stinehelfer, The Journey/Drom, illustrates the struggles of the Roma by assuming the format of an absurdist television talk show – think “the worst made-for-TV version of the OJ Simpson trial, combined with Dr. Phil,” Stinehelfer says.
The style is a wink at the sensationalised depiction of Roma people in the media, but an absurd approach might also be one of the only ways to depict some of the struggles they face. Through a partnership with Berlin’s Roma Trial, Serbia’s Kulturanova and Budapest’s Pro Progressione, Stinehelfer and her artistic team produced the show, conducting research during residencies in Novi Sad, Budapest, and Berlin to get a first-hand look at the dead ends Roma people face no matter what direction they go. Germany is a closed door, and southeastern Europe is almost horrifically hopeless.
“ People are living in shacks that they’ve made themselves out of scrap metal and cardboard. They have no electricity, they have no running water, babies get bitten by rats...” Stinehelfer says. “This is Europe in 2016, and there are people dying of dysentery because they’re eating from the garbage.”
The Gorki presented a sneak peek of the show back in April as a work-in-progress, coinciding with the International Day of the Roma. Stinehelfer now brings a fully realised version to the Delphi’s singular space, in which theatregoers will double as a live studio audience.
The script, which came directly out of actual experiences with people in the Balkans, plays with stereotypes and prejudices in a way Stinehelfer says doesn’t fall into the “refugee victim” trap and brings new depth to trite gypsy images and stories. “Everything onstage happened to a real person – and everything we’re saying is a theatrical version of the truth,” she says. Sounds like the talk show ideal.
The Journey/Drom Oct 27, 29, 20:00 | Ehemaliges Stummfilmkino Delphi, Weißensee