Milo Rau was born in Bern in 1977. He studied sociology, languages and literature in Paris, Zurich and Berlin under Tzvetan Todorov and Pierre Bourdieu, and was profoundly influenced by their teachings. As a journalist, he travelled extensively and learned the art of reporting in Chiapas and Cuba.
In 2007, he founded the International Institute of Political Murder based between Cologne, Berlin and Zurich. This theatre and film production company was soon recognised for its creations at the leading international festivals: Berlin, Avignon, Brussels, Montreal and Venice, etc.
By tackling the representation or distanced re-enactment of the tragic events that have left their mark on modern history (the last days of the Ceausescus, the Rwandan genocide, the killings carried out by Breivik, the Congo massacres, the Syrian dictatorship, the reception of immigrants in Europe or the Dutroux affair, etc.), Milo Rau is experimenting with a new form of political art which is aesthetically valid and documentary in nature–Real-Theater as so aptly named by German film-maker, Alexander Kluge—and one which turns its back on both the 19th-century naturalist tradition and the accepted performance practices of the past fifty years.
Milo Rau is interested, for example, in altering the traditional mechanisms of identification and representation. Directing equals disquieting. His aim is to subject Europe’s easy conscience to a sort of political psychotherapy; to start from the intimate setting of a small theatre, that of people and their everyday lives, and imperceptibly arrive at the violence and magnitude of a Greek tragedy.
As a result, in his production, Empire, Aeschylus’s Suppliant Women are soon implicit in the immigrants’ accounts. This is because Milo Rau believes that “reality is only a semblance of something greater, whether we call it society, History or something else…”.
What interests him in the representation of evil is, as Hannah Arendt has said, the way its perpetrators deny it to conceal it: their fantasized innocence, their putative lack of responsibility.
Milo Rau is indebted to the great Bertolt Brecht, one of his masters, for his preferential use of a form of ideal dramatic action to examine people’s consciences: that of investigating a case, then conducting a trial, in the exact place where stage and courtroom meet without, of course, ever merging.
Portrait by Yannnic Mancel
Photo © Daniel Seiffert