Inspired by the biblical Book Of Exodus, Fraught Outfit’s latest production is a radical, poetic response to an ancient narrative of violence and division, plagues and miracles, punishment and liberation, the drowned and the saved.
Conjuring up a wonderfully complex motif , Book of Exodus is the final work in Fraught Outfit’s Innocence trilogy, which investigates young people in relation to divine power. “The first work (On the Bodily Education of Young Girls) examined a strange institution for children with an absent, silent god,” explains co-creator of the work, Aaron Orzech. “The second work (The Bacchae) focused on the manifestation of a divine Dionysian force through the bodies and minds of a group of teenagers. ”
“In this, the final work, we wanted to turn the lens onto the ancient god of the Book of Exodus, a god who loves and punishes his children, sends plagues and miracles, and divides human beings into those who will be saved and those will be destroyed. The work itself is not a religious one; rather, it is a theatrical response to the events described in the text as experienced, remembered and recorded through the eyes of two contemporary children.”
Working with Adena Jacobs (who is also directing as well as Artistic Director of Fraught Outfit), Orzech acknowledges that there is no specific meaning or message in the show and that it is certainly not a single interpretation of the source text. Explains Orzech: “Within this work the two children play different roles and embody different themes. Some of the questions the work raises are: what does it mean for a child to confront the wounds of the past? How does a child make sense of their own community’s survival or destruction? What does a child signify in relation to a jealous, needy god, one who both protects and destroys, reveals and veils himself, abandons and saves?”
Fraught Outfit is known for their bold and visually explosive theatre-making, and Book of Exodus is no departure from this norm. Says Orzech: “Based on reactions to our past couple of shows, I imagine our audience may feel shaken, or elated, or sick, or simply old; many may walk away with a deep sense of loss and longing for the child they once were!”
Orzech and Jacobs have created the concept of this work together with Orzech also taking on the role of dramaturg, which he describes as a kind of caretaking role. “What does a dramaturg do? It’s similar to the archetypal role of a dodgy janitor in a teen movie. I pop up at random yet seemingly fitting moments to provide pivotal life advice to a struggling, angsty teen. This has a profound influence on the track of the teen character for the rest of the film and ultimately helps them overcome their obstacles and become a better person.”
The work will be shown in two parts with Part I set to open in June and Part II in October. Part I is described as an intimate exploration of history, memory and trauma, performed by children aged 8 and 11 years old with Part II being performed by around 40 children, tracing a community propelled from a violent past into an uncertain future.
Says Orzech about the choice to stage the work in two parts: “We wanted to experiment with a form we’d never tried before: a theatrical diptych, in which both parts stand alone but also speak to each other in multiple ways. The Book of Exodus itself is full of divisions into binaries: Moses and Aaron, the Israelites and the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea, a pillar of smoke and a pillar of fire, monotheism and idolatry etc., so we wanted to reflect the violent operations of these fundamental yet arbitrary distinctions in the final form of the work. I think the two parts would work equally well if they were seen on a single night; at the same time, the ideas we are dealing with are big and complex, so it’s great to allow an audience plenty of time to mull over the first part before experiencing the second! The text we have drawn on for this work is very ancient, yet speaks to us in alarmingly contemporary ways, and deals specifically with notions of remembrance, ritual, and the lasting effects of remembering versus forgetting, so a work with two parts which speak to each other over a long period also felt like an appropriate response.”
By a theatre collective described by Orzech as hysterical. innocent and alarming, the Book of Exodus is sure to enthral and transform
Says Orzech: “If a theatrical collision of ancient forces and contemporary children is your thing you will LOVE the Book of Exodus.”
May 31 – June 18