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Bandit: Here to Haunt You! On Why I Became an Émigré Theatre Maker

Summary

The article employs concepts of time lag, inspired by Ernst Bloch, and ghost and haunting, borrowed from Jacques Derrida. It also draws on Svetlana Boym’s and Vilém Flusser’s vision of the émigré and on Dominick LaCapra’s and Slavoj Žižek’s interpretations of trauma. The analysis is also informed by Karen Jürs-Munby’s and Cathy Caruth’s views on trauma and its representation in theatre.

This critical apparatus is put into motion in the particular context of BANDIT: a theatre project developed in the UK by two Romanian émigré theatre-makers. The main focus is on exposing links between the references to trauma contained in the theatre piece BANDIT and the makers’ self-imposed artistic exile in the UK. The article seeks to answer the following question: what has pushed us, the makers of BANDIT, to leave our native country and what is our (new) role (as artists) in the country of emigration? The discussion is carried out within the wider context of the vast waves of Romanian emigration to Western Europe (after the fall of the Iron Curtain). The article critiques the troublesome relation of the contemporary Romanian society to its Communist past and the apparent inability and/or unwillingness to deal with the repressed/traumatic memories of that past. Analysis of BANDIT as performance of lingering trauma also references the historical Percentages agreement between Stalin and Churchill—the informal agreement that established spheres of influence in Europe at the end of the Second World War. Identifying the Iron Curtain as the epicentre of traumatic memory for Eastern Europeans, the discussion about BANDIT also makes a reference to Communist crimes against political prisoners committed in Romanian prisons in 1951–1952, put in parallel with the toxic EU referendum campaign in the UK in 2016. Underpinned by Derrida’s thinking, the article explains how the Romanian émigré-artist (as a paragon of the Romanian / Eastern European émigré in general) has to fashion herself into a ghost that haunts the adoptive culture, using artistic exile as a platform for processing the traumatic memories of an unresolved past.

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