Theater piece seeks healing in wake of refugee tragedy

The Local/AFP
The Local/AFP - [email protected] • 14 Jan, 2017 Updated Sat 14 Jan 2017 11:47 CEST
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The gruesome discovery of 71 dead migrants in the summer of 2015 in an abandoned truck on a motorway near the Austrian town of Parndorf still haunts locals.

But a new play about the tragedy -- "71 or the Curse of the Prime Number" -- attempts to help people deal with the trauma a year and a half later.

"The intention was to perceive this drama through art and to raise some aspects that neither journalists nor politicians have raised so far," the play's director Peter Wagner said.

"I think we must mourn the things that weighed on us, and this play has the potential... to make us experience again something that shocked us," Wagner told AFP.

"It allows us in some way to detach ourselves from the problem, to observe it from a different point of view."

The discovery of the truck in August 2015 on the A4 motorway coming in from Hungary, at the height of a massive influx of migrants into Europe, was indeed horrific.

When police opened up the poultry refrigerator lorry left on the hard shoulder of the busy road, they were confronted with an atrocious sight and an awful smell.

'A living documentary'

The stench of human decay emanated from the cargo container where bodies of migrants lay piled on top of each other, crammed into a small rectangular space.

Among them was a baby girl, not even a year old. Investigations would later reveal that the victims -- all from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan -- had been dead for two days.

The men, women and children had suffocated shortly after smugglers had picked them up in Hungary, a key transit country on the so-called Balkan migrant trail during 2015.

The driver had long since fled. An Afghan and seven Bulgarians were later arrested and are due to go on trial in Hungary later this year. They face life imprisonment.

Wagner's play features a truck-size screen playing black-and-white interviews from 15 people who experienced the tragedy including police, a young volunteer and the local mayor.

In the two-hour performance, this is interwoven with actors performing from 21 texts written by local authors as well as dancing and music composed by Ferry Janoska.

"We know the documentaries from TV... But here it is a living documentary! I found that awesome," actress Tania Golden told AFP.

"I have a great admiration for Peter Wagner, because he does theatre for the region, for people here, not for people who go to the theatre and who are used to intellectualising issues."

The play premiered in a school in Parndorf on January 5 and then moved to the state capital Eisenstadt. Further performances are planned in nearby Oberwart and Grosswarasdorf.



The Local/AFP 2017/01/14 11:47

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