The Kindly Ones

De Mauthausen, Festival der regionen at Camp des Milles

When I was able to attend the creation of The Kindly Ones at the Festival der Regionen in Austria, I was first of all marked by the successful encounter between different disciplines: theater, performance, music by the keyboardist of a group American-Belgian cult of the 90s Tuxedomoon, operatic by the presence of a choir, on the subject of the rise of the extreme right in Europe. Without a party name or a man or woman politician’s name being mentioned, the show summons Europe’s amnesia towards the far right on a memorial site of Nazi abuses with a power that I have rarely felt in a theatrical project. The fact of having obtained the authorizations to play in this place, on the memorial site of the concentration camp of Mauthausen, at sunset, made the emotional charge of the proposal particularly strong.

Coming down this road which leads to the Mauthausen camp after the show, it seemed obvious to me to confirm that we had to go up it in France, as we had discussed the principle with the director of the Festival der Regionen, my friend Airan Berg. It was also obvious to me that the project had to be done at Camp des Milles. I had read the story of Camp des Milles, a memorial site victim of amnesia, or myopia, saved from destruction by several visionaries, including Alain Chouraqui. This is not a camp run by the Nazis, but a camp run by the French authorities, before and after Vichy, and not a concentration camp but an internment.

La Manufacture is a very important national dissemination tool. It occurred to me that few French programmers (we host 3,000 of them every summer during the Festival at La Manufacture) are familiar with Camp des Milles, whose memorial site was recently created. Developing a project at the heart of the Off d’Avignon festival around the Camp des Milles made sense to me: it is about giving visibility to the history and reality of this camp, which has the particularity of having seen transit a very large number of artists, some of world renown, who wrote, played, painted and drawn there. This approach is also part of a region where the extreme right is very present.

The development and adaptation of the project at Camp des Milles must follow a work of rewriting and adaptation in order to francize it on the one hand, and to integrate content from prisoners of Camp des Milles largely replacing those of Mauthausen. But there will remain texts of Mauthausen, creating a chain between works of prisoners of different camps and European memorial sites. In Mauthausen, an Austrian actress was reading the translation of Greek or English texts, we are considering the same device, which worked very well, for the Camp des Milles.

From the Austrian co-producers who carried the creation of the show, and therefore the most important part of the production, we created a chain of French partners who responded enthusiastically to the dynamics and meaning of this project:

  • La Chartreuse, National Center for Spectacle Writings, which accompanies Elli Papakonstantinou during her residency rewriting the text and integrating the works of prisoners of the Thousand Miles, with the scientific teams of Camp des Milles;

  • The Camp des Milles, which provides its prisoners’ archives, its scientific and educational team, its performance hall and its technical and reception staff

  • The DRAC PACA and the South / PACA region, which are enthusiastic about the project, the particular highlighting of the Camp des Milles on the audience of the Festival Off d’Avignon as part of La Manufacture

  • The LICRA, which will support the communication of the project and above all will organize a major debate in Avignon during the Festival

And at European and international level:

  • The Greek Ministry of Culture
  • The European Commission via the Centriphery Creative Europe project led by the Der Regionen Festival and La Manufacture
  • The memorial sites of Auschwitz / Birkenau and Belzec (Poland)
  • Finally, UNESCO labeled the project as part of its support for WWII memorial sites.