Presse

Paru dans « Les Temps Modernes ». 61è année Novembre-Décembre 2005/Janvier 2006 N°635-636
Par Micheline Servin
In Chroniques : Le théâtre à l’épreuve du temps : d’Aristophane à Weiss
Page 392-397

Le 20 novembre 1945 commençait le procès de Nuremberg dont la valeur symbolique et les limites sont désormais connues. En 1961, ce fut le procès d’Eichmann à Jérusalem. En 1964, devant la cour d’assise de Francfort, le procès de plusieurs responsables du camp de concentration et d’extermination d’Auschwitz, pour la plupart réintégrés dans la société allemande ; plus de trois cents témoins agents et survivants du camp de concentration, et rescapés du camp d’extermination virent déposer. Un an plus tard, Peter Weiss (1916-1982), d’ascendance juive par son père, qui avec ses parents, avait fui l’Allemagne nazie en 1934 et avait choisi la nationalité suédoise en 1945, écrivait L’Instruction, à partir de transcriptions et de reportages de ces procès. Une contribution à la dénazification, incluant une réflexion marxiste sur le camp comme entreprise productive. Dans les mois suivants, Erwin Piscator créait la pièce qui était représentée simultanément sur seize autres scènes allemandes. La secousse traversait la société, qui partait du théâtre. En 1966, Gabriel Garran la créait en France. Depuis, à ma connaissance, la pièce avait disparu des scènes. Voici quelques mois j’étais informée d’un projet dont elle était l’objet au Rwanda. Après Butare et Kigali, le spectacle vient d’être représenté à Liège :
L’Instruction, texte de Peter Weiss, mise en scène de Dorcy Rugamba et Isabelle Gyselinx, au collège Saint-Louis :
« Si tu entends parler des Juifs, tends bien l’oreille, on est en train de parler de toi » ; Dorcy Rugamba me rappela la phrase de Frantz Fanon. Onze ans après le génocide des Batutsi au Rwanda, et le massacre des Bahutus non complices, alors que se tiennent les tribunaux populaires rwandais et que des procès sont instruits contre les présumés responsables génocidaires, que des condamnations ont été prononcées, certaines par la cour d’assises de Bruxelles, la représentation de cette pièce s’impose en acte fort, à plusieurs significations. « Témoins et accusés mais également magistrats (accusateur, défenseur et juge) sont tous ici les acteurs de ce lendemain d’Auschwitz. Autrement dit aujourd’hui. Aucune parole, aucun des arguments avancés par les différents protagonistes dans l’enceinte de ce tribunal, ne nous semble provenir d’un ailleurs lointain. A les entendre tous, leurs propos nous semblent étrangement familiers ! » écrit Dorcy Rugamba, également coordinateur des ateliers Urwintore dans le cadre desquels les acteurs ont reçu un enseignement d’art dramatique.
La pièce de Peter Weiss, un oratorio en onze chants, chacun développé à partir de l’une des caractéristiques du camp, atteint les cinq heures. Une adaptation a été effectuée pour une représentation de moins de deux heures, sans pour autant s’abîmer dans un digest car plus que la structure respectée, elle appelle une forme scénique appropriée : le chœur antique (modernisée), qui n’est pas étranger – déjà dans les desseins – à des formes de théâtre de la parole rwandais ni à des codes sociétaux traditionnels d’où d’ailleurs sont issus les tribunaux populaires. Le Témoin N°3 intervient tel un avatar de coryphée : en un bref prologue qui focalise sur le génocide, il introduit la représentation par la description de l’arrivée d’un train au camp, ce que poursuit un autre Témoin (joué par l’actrice de l’équipe) qui décrit une femme demandant de l’eau pour son petit enfant ; et à lui revient la conclusion, qui, par déplacement de texte, n’est plus la demande de prescription mais un constat pointant la responsabilité de chacun en société : « Nous connaissons tous la société / d’où est sorti le régime qui a pu produire ces camps / L’ordre qui y régnait nous était familier dans sa structure et dans sa forme / c’est pourquoi nous avons pu nous y faire / jusque dans ses dernières conséquences (…). » Chaque choreute assure alternativement les rôles d’Accusés, Juges, et Témoins, ceux qui exposent ce qu’ils ont vu et subi qui étaient des meurtres, des massacres planifiés et organisés, ce qu’ils ont été contraints de faire pour survivre, ou encore « Je faisais mon devoir simplement / en cherchant à satisfaire / aux exigences des autorités du Reich », ou quand l’accusateur aborde « le système d’exploitation en vigueur dans ce camp » : « Vous témoin / ainsi que les autres directeurs / des grands konzerns / avez atteint une consommation illimitée / d’êtres humains / des chiffres d’affaires annuels de plusieurs milliards », dont le bénéfice perdure. « Nous protestons », dit le Directeur, qui requiert le tribunal « de prendre acte / de ces diffamations ». Le Juge posant les questions. Les accusés se défaussant, arguant qu’ils ont obéi aux ordres, même que certains en auraient été malades, qu’ils auraient risqué leur vie à désobéir, qu’ils sont innocents. « Le juge : Trouviez-vous normal que des femmes et des enfants fassent partie de ces convois ? // Accusé n°2 : Oui. A ce moment là / il y avait le principe de la responsabilité raciale collective. » Application des diverses formes modernisées du chœur qui, de plus, renvoie à une parole et à une responsabilité collective ; validité des deux acceptions du terme instruction.

Sept acteurs rwandais, Mandali Léon Athanase, Matabishi Lyliane, Nkundwa Kenny, Muhikira Olivier, Rugamba Dorcy, Twahirwa Aimable se répartissent alternativement les rôles et constituent un chœur, avec Nyarwaya Thomas, le Témoin n°3 : « Quand nous parlons aujourd’hui / de ce que nous avons vécu dans le camp / à ceux qui n’y ont pas été / il reste toujours pour eux quelque chose d’incompréhensible. »

Dans ce qui devait être une salle des fêtes, des gradins ont été installés dont le premier rang est au niveau de la scène – idée judicieuse de casser la perception habituelle de l’espace théâtral. Une cage de scène nue, aux murs vieillis avec des briques apparentes, ocres et noirs. Pour dispositif, un grand parallélépipède d’un demi-mètre de hauteur environ, et dessus, légèrement décentré, un second plus petit ; deux barres de témoins métalliques, l’une face au public au fond, l’autre perpendiculaire. Les éléments visuels retiennent d’une reconstitution et suggèrent un espace public. Au lointain jardin, un haut et étroit escalier métallique en colimaçon descend d’un plafond en bois qu’empruntent lentement les acteurs, marquants des temps d’arrêt pour regarder la salle, pris dans un éclairage ensoleillé qui vire au blanc quand ils posent le pied sur le plancher clair. Des costumes de la vie quotidienne – pantalons avec vestons et gilets pour les hommes, cravates colorées chemises unies ou à careaux – dans différentes nuances de blanc (couleur de deuil) formalisent avec élégance et en suggestion d’un rituel, ce chœur de gens ordinaires. Des modulations d’éclairage (lumière de Manu Deck) évoquent des heures et des temps divers. Peu de déplacements, à des moments certains personnages/acteurs se tiennent hors scène, observateurs. Debout, assis, tous prennent en charge les personnages, se distinguant en ôtant qui la veste, qui le gilet, sans camper, en donnant le texte avec une intensité tenue, une grande pureté. Deux ou trois situations sont jouées, ainsi la femme quittant brutalement le plateau, disant qu’elle ne veut plus avoir d’enfant ; ou encore une séquence en kinyarwanda au cours de laquelle se joue l’affrontement de deux hommes, l’un faisant le geste de tirer. Qui est l’Accusé ? Qui est le Témoin ? Le bourreau et la victime ? La langue rappelle le génocide au Rwanda, et de son incompréhension sourd une interrogation inquiétante : deux hommes ordinaires dont l’un est un bourreau. Superbe idée, la scène est reprise en français et à l’identique gestuelle : face au Témoin, l’Accusé se défend d’avoir tué à bout portant mais son geste de tir semble lui avoir échappé, signature de la véracité du témoignage, et du danger persistant pour le Témoin. Ou encore la main tendue qui aboutit à un salut nazi. A un moment, pendant l’interrogatoire de l’Accusé Stark, trois autres en retrait ricanent …arrogance de qui sait son impunité ? De rares jeux, ainsi, saisissent des attitudes précises, passerelles entre le texte et la réalité, de 1964 ou d’aujourd’hui. En fin, le haut du corps pris dans une lumière affaiblie, les sept personnages se tiennent côte à côte debout contre le mur en image fixe, comme émanant de l’ombre, avant de sortir, alors acteurs.
Une pureté, une simplicité, justes. Une poésie et une vie qui continuent en dehors des séances du tribunal, suggérées par des déplacements chorégraphiés. Les premières séquences sont indiquées par des changements de lumière et des effluves de musiques contemporaines. Deux chants par tous, en kinyarwanda, chœur a capella, douces mélopées qui témoignent de la culture rwandaise s’entendent à deux moments. Les acteurs, provenant du Rwanda, de tradition orale, savent intimement ce qu’ils disent, et l’importance des mots prononcés, avec une intériorité ne pesant pas, ancrant le génocide dans l’humanité. Parce qu’ils sont rwandais, ils déposent face à la communauté des humains universalisée le génocide des Juifs et celui des Batutsi rwandais ; plus amplement le génocide et la société. Par le choix de ce texte, ils rappellent la nécessaire inscription dans l’histoire, le péril de l’oubli et ils ravivent les deux pouvoirs fondamentaux du théâtre, la catharsis et la mise en société (les spectateurs en constituent une) d’un sujet commun pour une sollicitation de la conscience. Perceptiblement, la représentation vise à cela, cérémonie à portée humaine.
De nombreux adolescents parmi les spectateurs, à une dizaine près d’une grande attention ; j’appris que les acteurs étaient allés parler dans les salles de classe, et j’ai entendu un enseignant répondre à des questions dans le couloir.
L’Instruction a été programmée dans le cadre de la première édition du Festival Emulation crée à l’initiative de Serge Rangoni, directeur du Théâtre de la Place, en objectif « de permettre aux compagnies d’accroître leur audience, de faire vivre les spectacles » ; elle s’est déroulée du 8 au 26 novembre 2005, proposant onze spectacles, chacun dans un lieu (musée d’Art moderne et d’Art contemporain, théâtres, lieu secret) et de jauges différents, auxquels ont assisté quelque 6000 spectateurs.

Temps Modernes. Revue fondée par Jean-Paul Sartre et Simone de Beauvoir. Direction : Claude Lanzmann.
Traduction de Jean Baudrillard, éditions du Seuil, Paris 1966 ; réédition, L’Arche éditeur, Paris, 2000.
Création de Urwintore, en coproduction avec Paf le Chien et le Théâtre de la Place, avec l’aide du service théâtre et divers organismes belges de la Communauté française de Belgique, sous le haut patronage du ministre de la Culture, de la Jeunesse et des Sports au Rwanda et avec le soutien du Directeur du Musée national du Rwanda.
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Paru le 3 décembre 2005 pour le Bulletin de l’APMA. N°67/68 Hiver 2005
Par Evelyne Guilloto
Académie d’art de la parole
Paris – France.

L’INSTRUCTION de Peter Weiss

Liège, 18 Novembre 2005, ciel gris, froid piquant et vent glacial, la Meuse coule nonchalamment au pied d’immeubles reconstruits après les bombardements de 1944. Quelques vieilles bâtisses pourtant ont résisté, le collège St Louis est de ceux là, haute masse de pierre sombre, presque noire. Au bout d’un dédale de couloirs une salle de spectacle, scène sans rideaux, murs nus du fond de la scène, décrépis, criblés de trous laissés par l’explosion d’un obus qui, sans doute, a frappé en plein cœur ce théâtre, lieu de rencontre des hommes, d’exorcisme des drames et des passions, lieu de parole aussi ou se dénoncent la folie et la barbarie, la négation de l’humanité.

Justement dans ce décor de fin du monde, on joue l’Instruction de Peter Weiss, composition dramatique réalisée à partir des minutes du « Procès d’Auschwitz » qui se tint à Francfort en 1963, dix-neuf ans après le procès de Nuremberg : une cour d’assises allemande cette fois, juge les responsables de crimes nazis dont la plupart s’étaient réintégrés sans difficulté dans la société. La pièce composée uniquement des témoignages des survivants et des accusés eut à l’époque un fort retentissement en Allemagne, rappel de l’horreur et des souffrances du passé pour certains, accusation implacable pour d’autres, étonnés de ce revers de l’Histoire.

Paroxysme de la représentation, les acteurs sont rwandais, ils viennent de Kigali la capitale, de Butare, la ville universitaire, ils se sont retrouvés au sein des Ateliers « URWINTORE » : « la place, la scène des artistes », lieu de formation, de création et de recherches sur les arts de la scène au Rwanda.

Dans un décor dépouillé de tréteaux et de barres de fer, vêtus de costumes de lin écru, rappelant à la fois la tenue informe de prisonnier et la coupe étudiée de l’uniforme colonial, sept acteurs, six hommes, une femme, incarnent tour à tour plaignants et accusés, bourreaux et victimes. Les témoins s’appuient aux barres de fer figurant celle du tribunal, sur les tréteaux se repartissent les accusés, les juges, les auditeurs de ces journées de tension insoutenable. On se sent hors du temps, les confrontations vous oppressent, le spectateur respire à peine.
Heureusement, dans cette mise en scène fondée sur la dynamique de quelques déplacements entre les tableaux et l’intensité de l’écoute et le regard de ceux qui se taisent, éclairés à demi au bord du champ de lumière, un atout d’importance pour ces acteurs venus d’un continent où l’écrit n’a que peu de poids : la parole, en français, en kinyarwanda, la voix, le chant. Aucune sentimentalité dans le récit des victimes, un cynisme désarmant dans les réponses des accusés, et toujours cette force dans la voix, le verbe, lancés à la tête, au cœur du spectateur, rafales de mots, de phrases, d’images ravivant les blessures de la conscience de notre temps : ces faits se sont produits chez vous, en Europe, il y a plus de soixante ans, tous l’ont su, pourquoi, comment ont-ils pu se reproduire, ailleurs, chez nous au Rwanda, il y a seulement onze années ?
Moi, spectateur, je ne trouve rien à répondre. Des millions d’hommes oeuvrent – ce ne peut être vain – pour une humanité guérie, délivrée de ses propres forces d’anéantissement et de destruction.
Jadis le théâtre grec d’Eschyle et de Sophocle était le lieu d’instruction de la conscience individuelle, on y apprenait à devenir homme, adapté à la vie de la cité par la purification opérée au moyen de la représentation de la tragédie : vision bouleversante du drame dans lequel le protagoniste, mon semblable, est emporté, terreur devant son impuissance, face à des forces qui le dépassent, pitié, compassion de cœur pour les douleurs qu’il endure, catharsis, retournement, renonciation à l’instinct du mal par l’expérience de l’excès de souffrance.
Le théâtre n’a pas fini de remplir sa mission civilisatrice, il n’a fait que commencer à soigner, à guérir l’humanité de ses maux les plus graves.

Acteurs, amis de la compagnie « URWINTORE » par l’intensité de votre présence, affirmation de la vie, par la force de votre parole – la parole, c’est l’esprit qui ne peut mourir – par la beauté de vos chants, instants célestes et pourtant fruits de l’inaliénable faculté créatrice de l’homme, vous nous l’avez prouvé. Merci.
Association de patients de la médecine d’orientation anthroposophique.

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The Investigation
Young Vic, London
Michael Billington
Friday November 2, 2007
The Guardian
Confronting reality … The Investigation. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

We talk of "verbatim" theatre as if it were a recent invention. It was, in fact, ubiquitous in the
1960s; and one of its most potent examples remains Peter Weiss’s The Investigation, which is
drawn from the decade’s Frankfurt war crimes trial.
Now Weiss’s text has been taken over by a Rwandan company, Urwintore, and the result is a
shocking and startling reminder of the hideous reality of genocide and of the lies and evasions
that accompany it.
Conceived and directed by Dorcy Rugamba and Isabelle Gyselinx, this 90-minute documentary
play is presented with the utmost simplicity. Seven actors, all Rwandan or Congolese, occupy
two unadorned rostrums and adopt the roles of witnesses and defendants in a rigorous
examination of events in Auschwitz.
Performing in French, with the aid of English surtitles, the actors rarely overlay the text with
emotion; and when they do, as in the case of a guard called Kaduk who vehemently denies
making prisoners jump over a stick before sending them to be gassed, the effect is explosive.
What strikes one most forcibly is the company’s moral right to the material: they understand,
better than most of us, the way genocide is made up of myriad, remembered fragments.
When the witnesses to Auschwitz talk of how "if someone died you grabbed their sleeping
place", of the air around the camp being "singed and sickly sweet" and of the way the guards
beat their victims’ sores "till flesh peeled off the bones", you hear the authentic voice of the
survivors; and it takes no great feat of imagination to apply these recollections to the Rwandan
horrors of 1994.
But the piece, as Rugamba has said, is also about alternative versions of history and about the
way the executioners constantly seek to justify their actions.
In the case of Auschwitz, we hear all the familiar self-exculpations: that orders had to be
obeyed, that the individual in question took no part in mass extermination, that the victims
conspired in their own destruction. Only one figure openly acknowledges his role in
"annihilating a philosophy" – and he, tragically, turns out to have been a former student of
Goethe.
The question inevitably arises of what the evening achieves. For all of us, it provides a
testament to humanity’s capacity for destruction. But another answer lies in the way its creators
have altered Weiss’s strict chronology by making one of the key witness statements the
production’s climax.
The witness argues that we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that the horrors of
genocide are "beyond our comprehension". He goes on to claim that "the society that produced
the camps is our society".
Those words, spoken in Frankfurt in 1965, have an obvious application to Rwanda. And they
help to explain the evening’s shattering power. They serve to remind us that victims and
executioners come from the same world and that only by facing that fact can any lessons be
learned.
The value of a piece of theatre like this, which should be seen by as many as possible, is that it
aids that process of confronting reality.
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From The Times
November 3, 2007
The Investigation
Benedict Nightingale at the Young Vic
How many Tutsis did the Hutu militias murder in 1994? A million? Oh no, probably just a few
hundred thousand, and in any case the killers were only responding to political imperatives and
obeying orders. Really, they were victims themselves – and shouldn’t be harassed at this late
stage by do-gooders who ought to be moving on.
That’s the kind of mindset a company called Urwintore has come from Rwanda to expose.
They do so in a surprisingly indirect way.
They are performing a cut version of The Investigation, the verbatim play that Peter Weiss
extracted from Holocaust hearings held in Frankfurt in 1963. Everything we hear from the cast
involves Auschwitz, but, as the programme says, “by investigating the Nazis’ crimes, we are
prosecuting the crimes of our own era”.
The facts are by now horribly familiar, though I hadn’t heard of the Goethe-loving guard who
became dementedly angry if so much as a dead fly were found untidying his office after he’d
committed yet another murder, or of the rats that chewed off dying inmates’ feet, or of the
human flesh that was loaded into motorcycle sidecars, to go God knows where and why. But
it’s no surprise to learn of Mengele smiling at children whose bodies he would dissect or of the
zillions who ended up tangled in the gas chamber, still gripping each others’ torn-out hair.
The defendants never, ever, criticise themselves or express remorse. What’s revealing as well
as distressing is the capacity for denial and self-justification. That embraces not only the banal
excuses but a belief that mass extermination was a racial responsibility and, in the case of
Soviet prisoners of war, an ideological one. And perhaps the pharmacist did convince himself
that those cases contained Ovaltine, not Zyklon B.
Urwintore lapses into African dialect when a mass murderer spits at his accusers, explaining
that he’s a much-loved person who acted “to ensure everything went smoothly”; and then the
company does the scene again in the surtitled French heard everywhere else. Otherwise, Dorcy
Rugamba’s admirably measured, restrained cast neither press connections nor push
conclusions. How can such things happen? Well, they did. Could they happen again? Several
actors run angrily onstage when one of their number suggests that no society can disown the
possibility of another Auschwitz – but they know he’s right.
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subSIDISED – CURRENT
****
THE INVESTIGATION by PETER WEISS
adapter JEAN BEAUDRILLLARD presenter URWINTORE conceiver/director DORCY
RUGAMBA and ISABELLE GYSELINX décor FABIENNE DAMIEAN with  LEON
ATHANASE, LYLIANE MATABISHI, SAMUEL MUTEBA, KENNY NKUNDWA,
THOMAS NYARWAYA, OLIVIER RANGIRA, AIMABLE TWAHIRWA
The unique idea of taking The Investigation which dissected the Nazis genocide and keeping to
those descriptive horrors while being played by black actors in white suits who represent the
Rwanda genocide, without saying a word about Rwanda,  leaves an indelible image of both
genocides and is the most devastating evening I have spent in the theatre. Five hours of The
Investigation text has been cut to 80 minutes….80 minutes of despair. The silence of the
audience was crushing as the horrors are relived yet again. The human race must be called to
task over the fact that such evil exists in man. Seeing Faustus play with the devil is child’s play
as compared to witnessing the exact details of man’s depraved inhumanity to man and the
excessive depths of evil he is capable of carrying. You cannot comment on the staging, the
script or the music…such trivia compared to the human cost… cannot be placed side by side.
The director Rugamba had his family murdered along with half a million Tutsis and Hutus…
shot or axed by machetes. Most of the actors come from Rwanda and perform in a detached
manner grouping and regrouping in patterns as they describe the cattle-cars filled with people,
going to their death by slow torture, disease, or gas chamber. Corpses falling  from trucks,
fumes of burning flesh, rats openly eating humans, medical experiments by doctors, such
depravities to yet again be revisited. Here is theatre used to comment on our era and should be
performed throughout the world on every stage to every generation so that it will never be
forgotten. How is it that man is capable of such cold blooded murder, such torment and torture?
This special company should be supported by every nation and made to tour the world so that
the world can be reminded of destroying such evil. The details of Auschwitz’s atrocities carry
such resonance as it applies to Rwanda and is devastating to listen to sixty years later with the
same significance. Will man’s butchery never end?
October 31 – November 10/07
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London, Tuesday 20.11.07Tuesday 13.11.07
The Investigation
Nicholas de Jongh’s rating
Dir: Dorcy Rugamba.
Cast: Leon Athanase Mandali, Lyliane Matabishi Mukase, Samuel Muteba Sangwa, Kenny
Theophile Nkundwa, Thomas Nyarwaya, Olivier Rangira, Aimable Twahirwa
Description: A documentary-drama written by Peter Weiss, based on reports and debates from
the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the 1960s, performed by a company of Rwandan actors.
Adapted by Jean Beaudrillard, performed in French with English surtitles. Haut du formulaireBas du
formulaire
A long, cool look at genocide
By Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard  02.11.07

Resonance: Giving horrifying accounts of the atrocities of Auschwitz, the cast of The
Investigation draw frightening parallels with the massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda
This horrifying piece of documentary theatre tells us nothing new about the hellish atrocities of
Auschwitz or the brisk efficiency with which thousands of men, women and children were
daily gassed and burned to ashes. Yet as conceived by Dorcy Rugamba and Isabelle Gyselinx,
who also directs, Jean Beaudrillard’s adaptation of Peter Weiss’s play The Investigation
achieves a chilling, contemporary resonance that is all its own.
For Rugamba was prompted to create this production by direct experience of a more recent
genocide. Twelve members of his close family were murdered in the first months of massacres
in Rwanda during 1994, when half a million Tutsis and more moderate Hutus were shot or
hacked to death. Most of his actors come from Rwanda, too.
Rugumba’s decision to stage The Investigation, therefore, poses nagging questions. How did
the Rwandan Genocide come about, a mere half century after Hitler’s incineration of six million
Jews? Why did the world react with such indifference?
At the end of this version of The Investigation, which condenses the five-hour text to 80
minutes, a depressing conclusion is reached. "The society that produced the (Nazi
Extermination) camps is our society." Countries, creeds and cultures may be natural-born
generators of genocidal impulses.
On a platform stage, actors who speak in French (with English surtitles) group and regroup in
elegantly choreographed patterns. Interchangeably they speak the testimonies of Auschwitz
medical/administrative defendants or executioners who stonewall or sometimes furiously
challenge the charges of their survivor/victims.
The actors who play the survivors in Rugumba and Gyselinx’s graceful production adopt an
almost uniformly detached, emotionally restrained tone that renders their recollection of
Auschwitz all the more terrible. Each process, from arrival in cattle-trucks to gassing or
excruciating, slow death from disease and medical experimentation, is duly described.
Corpses tumble from cattle trucks. The living are assailed by sickly sweet odours of burning
flesh before many are sent straight to be gassed. Rats gnaw the feet of the dying. Diseases
known only to textbooks spring back to deathly existence. Excruciating tortures and medical
experiments are devised.
By bearing renewed witness to Auschwitz’s depravities, as if to provide the amoral context for
Rwanda’s butcheries, this amazing company of Rwandans encourages us to brood about our
moral lethargy in face of resurgent genocidal tendencies. A gruelling but unforgettable
experience.
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Haut du formulaire
Theatre
An inconvenient truth
Rosie Millard
Published 08 November 2007
Rwandan actors force us to confront our responsibility for genocide
The Investigation Young Vic, London SE1
Simplicity, and a growing sense of horror, are the two key notions arising from an utterly
compelling production of Peter Weiss’s The Investigation, by a Rwandan company, Urwintore.
Seven actors, all Rwandan, take to the stage. Speaking clearly and calmly, mostly in French
(with English surtitles), and an occasional moment in African dialect, they give eye-witness
accounts of a genocide, from the arrival of bewildered prisoners at the extermination camps, to
the terrifying details of what went on there. No specific details of place and time are included,
but it is clear we are in a court of law, with former prisoners testifying against the guards who
tortured and murdered millions.
The piece is directed by Dorcy Rugamba, a Rwandan whose entire family was massacred in
April 1994. Somehow the fact that the performers are speaking French, one of the world’s most
beautiful languages, makes the horrendous descriptions of brutality and fear even worse. The
actors, dressed in white, move quietly around the stage, taking turns to be the central figure of
attention, interchanging the roles of torturer and victim in carefully considered performances
which sit halfway between recital and acting.
And then one of the cast names Josef Mengele, the notorious medical experimenter at
Auschwitz. This is not the Rwandan genocide that is being depicted, but the Holocaust. The
Investigation, written by Weiss in 1965, takes as its text the shattering testimonies from
survivors of the Nazi death camps delivered in court during the 1963-65 Frankfurt war crimes
trials. It is still regarded in Germany as one of the most influential plays ever written about the
Holocaust. In Rugamba’s remarkable production, however, it achieves a further layer of
meaning. Indeed, when he devised the piece he was struck by the similarities between the
Frankfurt trials and the Gacaca trials in Rwanda, in which the survivors were also enabled to
encounter their oppressors, and testify against them.
As the details unfold with calm precision, the chaos of arriving at the camps, the random
cruelty and weasel-words of the officers – who claim again and again that they were merely
"following orders" – and above all, the unbearable description of prisoners making their way to
the gas chambers, fathers holding babies, children clutching at their mothers’ skirts, the futility
of "Never Again" is starkly apparent.
Although the horrors of Auschwitz are told often in order that they will never happen again, it
is only 13 years ago that people were once more being lined up outside remote buildings in the
countryside, marched in, and systematically murdered for an invented crime that amounted to
"collective racial responsibility".
The actors speak their lines with conviction, not least because they themselves are authentic
survivors of genocide. It is a brilliant conceit, providing a spellbinding evening. There is hardly
any set to speak of; the stage is almost totally unadorned, and there is no formally integrated
dialogue, or not much. But so gripping are the devastating testimonies and stark descriptions
that any more theatricality would be a distraction.
With a running time of around 90 minutes, and no interval, this play is shorter than the German
original, but it is long enough. Indeed, some of the descriptions are so brutal that on the night I
saw it, several people felt it necessary to leave the auditorium. And yet what the production
delivers is not just another miserable immersion in the horrors of human madness, but a more
provocative perspective.
Knowing that Auschwitz, and Rwanda (and, for that matter, any number of the other genocides
across the globe) took place is indeed a burden, but it is not enough. The point behind
Rugamba’s production – which fuses historical episodes across the century so brilliantly – is
that in the end, there is a mass culpability which we must, now, take on board. As one of the
actors says: "We must get beyond the fact that the camps are incomprehensible. We produced
the camps. The society that produced the camps is our society."
………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Bas du formulaire
Theatre: The Investigation
by Hugh Reilly. Thursday, 01 November 2007
Dorcy Rugamba was just 24 when most of his family were killed by Hutu militia in Kigali,
Rwanda. The date was 7 April 1994, the first day of a genocide which would claim the lives of
an estimated 800,000 – mostly Tutsi – Rwandans over the next 100 days. Rugamba
Âescaped with a younger brother to Burundi within a week of the start of the Âkillings and
fled to France shortly after.
Fast forward 13 years and Rugamba is an established writer, actor and theatre Âdirector based
in Belgium. Dramatists often use writing or performing as a way of coping with painful events,
and despite the scale of his trauma, Dorcy is no different. In 1999, he co-wrote a play based on
the Rwandan genocide, Rwanda 94, and has since penned a book about the last days of his
family’s lives.
"The genocide was Âcompletely impossible to Âunderstand and like a Âdepression," says
Rugamba. "It was very difficult to talk about my story and family, but when I started the play,
it really helped me to face the genocide."
Rugamba’s latest project also addresses genocide, but not Rwanda’s. He is in London to direct
Peter Weiss’s groundbreaking play, The Investigation, based on testimonies of the Frankfurt
war-crime trials of the early 1960s, when Germans were called to account for their role in the
Auschwitz concentration camp.
All the roles in this special version of the Holocaust Âdocudrama will be played by Rwandan
actors, many of whom – like Rugamba – Ânarrowly escaped genocide. Despite the
obvious differences between the Nazi ÂHolocaust and the Rwandan genocide, Rugamba thinks
his juxtaposition sheds light on the reasons behind the genocide as well as helping his
countrymen move on from it.
"Auschwitz and the genocide of the Tutsis are not the same, but the questions Âafterwards are
– justice, Âcollective trauma and the Âco-habitation of survivors and those Âaccused of
Âkilling," says Rugamba, who staged The Investigation in Rwanda in 2005.
"The story is like a mask – it makes you free to talk about your own situation."
………………………………………………………………………………………………
The Investigation, Young Vic, London
By Paul Taylor
Published: 06 November 2007
The Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were butchered, has been the
subject of powerful, principled films (Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs) and a play (a fine drama,
The Awakening, recently mounted by Out of Joint at the National). Here, though, it is evoked
implicitly and with an eloquently tacit sense of desperate but dignified fellow-feeling by a
company of Rwandan artists who are recreating a Nazi war-crimes trial in a piece that’s a
condensed adaptation by Jean Baudrillard of The Investigation, Peter Weiss’s celebrated
verbatim account of a real courtroom drama.
People who go to this production expecting something like a Tricycle-type tribunal play will be
in for a shock, and not just because proceedings are conducted in French with English surtitles.
The style of the staging – conceived and directed by Dorcy Rugamba and Isabelle Gyselinx,
designed by Fabienne Damiean – is spare to the point of chic abstraction. Wearing elegant
cream suits, the performers take up diagrammatically expressive positions on a set starkly bare
save for a couple of skeletal witness stands. The casting is a jumble so that each actor gets to
play defendants, accusers, judges, jury and audience members. The approach is at the opposite
pole from the Tricycle’s documentary realism.
I’m not sure much is achieved by communicating the harrowing evidence in such aestheticised
circumstances. The Rwandan actors are excellent; the emotion is never forced and is all the
more moving for being so contained, with periodic eruptions as the defendants insist that they
were only carrying out orders in a war against an outside enemy.
This version of The Investigation works towards a denouement that trains a glaring light on a
terrible ideological split between those who, with guilty defensiveness, say the atrocity is
beyond human comprehension and those who want to force people to focus on the excruciating
fact that "the society that gave rise to the camps is our society".
The feeling that these performers have a moral right to this material was uncomfortably mixed
for me with a sense that I would have preferred to hear them talking about their own experience
in testimonies that bore direct witness to Rwanda’s piteous suffering.
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.
Rating:
Our shared human capacity to do evil is the subject of ‘The Investigation’. Peter Weiss’ 1965
play is based, scrupulously, on the transcripts of the Frankfurt War Crimes Trials. Rwandan
theatre group Urwintore brings its own national experience of genocide to Weiss’ selection of
Auschwitz testimonies. Urwintore presents a condensed version of his stark docu-drama, a trial
which trails off deliberately at the end, avoiding the false comforts of closure and catharsis.
Director Dorcy Rugamba recreates the overwhelming blankness of Weiss’ stage: actors enter
down a metal fire-escape to a space where a couple of iron bars act as dock, jail, bench or
torture chamber. The actors’ clothes – uniformly white linen – emphasise the terrifyingly
arbitrary distinction between victims and villains. And the slow-burning, low-key acting, and
the strictly unemotive attention to the facts, confirm that this performance is something much
more important than drama: it is testimony, of universal importance.
Weiss’ text is shorn of many of its local references. And the languages used – French with
brief English subtitles and Kinyarwanda without –  emphasise the many locations of violence,
as well as creating a strenuous space for comprehension and contemplation which forces you to
exercise your own imagination and experience in the gaps between the words.
This is such important work that it’s hard to criticise it theatrically: it is absolutely not
entertainment; and it is resolutely quiet, fragmented, and difficult to encounter without giving
something of yourself. Some naturalism, and some sense of the whole, is lost in transposition.
It could feel closer and more powerful played in a smaller space. And the universals are more
resounding than individual stories. Dramatically,  the most galvanising pieces of testimony
come from the circumstantial villains of the piece, caught between complicity and conscience,
striving to wash their memories clean of acts committed in the service of cruelty.
Caroline McGinn, Mon Nov 5
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The Investigation, London review
Moving Boundaries
Rwandan director Dorcy Rugamba shares with Uchenna
Izundu his experiences on staging The Investigation, a
play about Auschwitz with Rwandan actors.
Why have you chosen to direct The Investigation?
I discovered this play on stage and immediately it struck me as incredibly topical even though it
deals with events that date from the Second World War. Evidently, as I listened to the play,
Rwanda came to mind at every moment. But it wasn’t just Rwanda, there was also the
backdrop of modern society of which the Nazi genocide was one of the most extreme aspects.
In short, it is a play about the genocide which is neither fascinated by the murders nor dedicated
to solemn commemoration. The play exposes the facts clinically, methodically, and allows the
public to draw their own conclusions about the stories. It is this method of giving responsibility
to the audience that most appealed to me.
The Investigation was originally written in German and you perform it in French with
English subtitles. How difficult was it to translate? What did you leave out?
The [German] play by Peter Weiss lasts approximately five hours and is written in an epic form
with eleven verses: each stage leading down towards hell. In spite of the power of this form,
we opted for a less epic dramaturgy – rather one that is closer to tragedy and the play lasts one
hour twenty minutes.
We wanted the story to be told together, almost in a choir-like form to emphasise the fact that it
is a collective drama. We took out a lot of the evidence on the veracity of what happened at
Auschwitz. We thought that the historical context had changed and that the audience of today
wouldn’t watch the play in the same way as an audience in the 1960s. At that time, there were
many people denying the reality of genocide. For them, the victims of Auschwitz or other
concentration camps were not anything but collateral damage of a fratricidal war between
Europeans. Today it is different. No-one, with the exception of the negationists – who will
never change due to ideological reasons – no-one now contests the reality of the genocide of
the Jews.
What are the parallels that you draw between the Rwandan and German experience of
genocide?
The Frankfurt trial was the first trial where a German court judged the Germans for the acts
they committed in the name of their country. The resonance of this trial went further than just
the accused. The whole of Germany was forced to confront its contradictions: the weight of all
that happened could not simply rest on the shoulders of a few defendants. The situation is
similar in Rwanda at the moment. The Gacaca trials, which are the trials happening in the
districts that involve the whole population, started three years ago. In both cases, Rwanda and
Germany, it is a case of collective trauma, a national drama. Notably, one specific aspect unites
Rwanda and Germany – that the genocide of the Jews, like the genocide of the Rwandan
Tutsis, was a legal crime. The killers were not working outside the law; it was rather that
zealous patriots were working for a criminal state. When they killed, they had the law and the
state on their side.
Can there ever be reconciliation from the Rwandan massacre?
We will never have reconciliation if we see it as a goal in itself. If there is reconciliation one
day, it will be the long-term result of many factors. Justice must have been reached; the crimes
and the criminals will have been judged and condemned. A long, slow, uphill educational
journey will have to be taken: notably to give the young generation new criteria for identity that
is less narrow and extreme. Economic progress is necessary as well for many, both in the
regional and international context. Rwanda is not an island – if the world is doing badly, it
would surprise me if Rwanda were doing any better.
…………………………………………………………..
Scar tissue
As Rwandans struggle with the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, one theatre
director is turning to a play about the Holocaust for answers. Jon Henley meets him
Wednesday October 31, 2007
The Guardian
‘I simply could not count the number of friends, acquaintances, family members I had lost’ … Dorcy Rugamba. Photograph: Martin Godwin

On the afternoon of April 6 1994, Dorcy Rugamba was in Butare visiting a sick aunt when his
father – 80 miles away in the Rwandan capital, Kigali – phoned. "Don’t come back," he said.
"Stay where you are, for the time being at least. It’s not looking good." Early the next morning,
he called again. "It’s looking bad," he said. "We’re taking shelter in the corridor. If the number
in the living room doesn’t answer, try the one in the bedroom." The corridor between the
bedrooms was, Rugamba knew, the safest place in the house: to hit you, a bullet would have to
pass through at least two walls.
When Rugamba rang the phone in the living room a few hours later, there was no answer. He
tried the bedroom. No answer either. Later, his younger brother rang. "Some soldiers came," he
said. "They took us into the garden and shot us. Everyone is dead."
On that morning, Rugamba’s father, Cyprien – a respected writer, researcher, teacher and artistic
director of the Amasimbi n’Amakombe traditional dance company – was killed. So were his
mother and six of his siblings. The only members of the 12-strong family left alive were
Rugamba himself, two sisters who were also away from home and their 16-year-old brother,
who had somehow dragged himself unscathed from the mound of still-warm corpses in the
garden after the soldiers left.
This was the first day of Rwanda’s genocide. Over the next 100 days or so, at least 500,000
and possibly as many as 1 million Tutsis and more moderate Hutus would die at the hands of
extremist Hutu mobs and militias, gunned down or, more often, hacked to death with machetes.
It was immediate, graphic, wholesale slaughter on an unimaginable scale and, inevitably, it
transformed the lives of all who lived through it.
In Dorcy Rugamba’s case, it has turned a modest, soft-spoken, 24-year-old pharmacy student
and part-time dancer in his father’s troupe into an internationally acclaimed theatre director.
Next week, he brings his production of Peter Weiss’s The Investigation – perhaps the most
powerful play yet written about an earlier, even deadlier Holocaust – to London for its (and his)
British premiere.
Performed by a Rwandan and Congolese cast, The Investigation – a documentary drama based
on transcripts of the 1963-65 Frankfurt trials, which saw 22 German defendants tried under
German law for their actions at Auschwitz – has already played to impressive reviews in
Rwanda, in Belgium, and at Peter Brook’s Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris.
"In many ways, it’s exactly the right piece for us now," says Rugamba. "It’s a play about two
versions of history: the victims’ and the executioners’. The Frankfurt trials were the first time
that Germans confronted and judged Germans in the aftermath of a national trauma; Rwanda is
now deep in the same process with our Gacaca village tribunals. Across the country, juries
elected by the people are pitting those two versions of history against one another: the
eyewitnesses versus the accused."
The fact that Weiss’s play is not directly concerned with Rwanda’s genocide makes it even more
powerful, Rugamba believes, especially for a Rwandan audience. "It doesn’t talk about our
story, the Hutu-Tutsi story," he says. "It’s a step removed from that whole context; it takes the
real hard issues out of all the confused and confusing stuff that surrounds them. The
Investigation takes a long hard look at another genocide and asks: what exactly was going on
here? So, watching as a Rwandan, it doesn’t matter if you’re the son of a killer or of a victim,
because this play doesn’t say: I accuse my neighbour’s father. The values are more universal."
Back to 1994. Two days after his family’s massacre, Rugamba and his aunt and cousins fled
into the still-peaceful countryside. As the violence and bloodshed spread south towards Butare,
they slipped over the border into Burundi. There the French consulate was, he says, "extremely
helpful", and concerned French friends of the family – people they had met during the dance
troupe’s regular seasons in Paris – sent the money for airfares and stood guarantee for visas.
"For a long time, we were ignorant of the sheer scale of what had happened," says Rugamba.
"For more than a year afterwards, I was in a kind of limbo; I had completely lost my bearings. I
stayed only a few months in Paris before going to Belgium to finish my studies [the Rwandan
education system was based on that of the former colonial power], but I didn’t really know
where I was or what I was doing. I simply could not count the number of friends,
acquaintances, family members I had lost."
Chance encounters with other Rwandan refugees and a growing desire to get to grips with his
experience – "just to tell the story, I suppose" – led him, after graduation, to the drama
department of the Liège conservatory of music, in Belgium. "I rediscovered a whole world, the
world I had known since early childhood," says Rugamba. "In Rwanda, I grew up quite
literally in a performing arts company. I was on stage long before I was in primary school. For
me, entering the conservatory was like finding another family."
The result, in 1999, was Rwanda 94, an extraordinary, emotionally exhausting six-hour
creation about his country’s 100 days of madness that Rugamba co-authored and in which he
played a range of parts. Premiered at the Avignon festival in France, the play and its 40-strong
cast were showered with awards, and the production toured extensively for the next four years
in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Canada and the Caribbean. "It rebuilt me," says
Rugamba. In 2004, a decade after the genocide, the troupe took Rwanda 94 home.
"It was an extraordinary thing," says Rugamba. "For genocide survivors, it was something far,
far stronger than theatre. Everywhere we performed, people – especially women, who had
undergone unimaginable tortures – were howling, passing out where they sat. The authorities
had to station ambulances outside each venue to carry them away. Rwandans have trouble
expressing their emotions, you see. They don’t like the raw and the crude, and this play was
both. It was very real. It was like bursting a boil."
Between Rwanda 94 and Rugamba’s latest production came a handful of other projects,
including a formative spell with Peter Brook acting in the director’s acclaimed Tierno Bokar,
based on the life of the African sage and mystic. "That taught me such a lot," says Rugamba.
"He manages to see things so simply, Brook. Above all, he doesn’t have this tortured
relationship with drama, where it has to be about suffering. It took Brook to teach me that the
theatre can also be about pleasure."
So, 13 years after that April morning in 1994, how does Rugamba feel about what happened?
"I am … pacified," he says, searching for the word. "But I’m pacified because I’m doing
something. I may not be a judge or a politician or a soldier, but I am doing something in the
aftermath of this. I’m battling with that whole period. I haven’t abdicated. So I’m not bitter about
it. It hasn’t sullied me. I do not hate life."
He still does not really understand the magnitude of what happened, though: "No matter how
hard you work on it, there remains an element of mystery in every human being. It wasn’t just
killing, you see – it was killing with a sadism, a cruelty you simply cannot credit. And these
were people of my age, some of them people I knew well. They were the ones who did it.
That’s something I’m still struggling to understand. It frightens me."
For the future of his country, he is "more optimistic than not. What happened was just so
terrible that everyone knows it can’t ever be allowed to happen again. It will need a lot of hard
work. There needs to be a great deal of education, a healthy economy, plenty of jobs.
"And you just have to trust that the killers will not raise their children in hate, and that those
children will succeed in inventing their own future, and not follow in their fathers’ ways.
Because people are not predestined to be bad, you know. You have to believe that or you’d be
lost."
…………………………………………………………………………………………………
The Investigation
By Uchenna Izundu
9/11/2007
Director Dorcy Rugamba talks to Uchenna Izundu about merging the German and Rwandan
genocide experiences and surviving Rwanda’s own holocaust.
Dorcy Rugamba
The Investigation, a new play on at London’s Young Vic, examines the Auschwitz through the
eyes of Rwandan actors. Director Dorcy Rugamba talks to Uchenna Izundu about merging the
German and Rwandan genocide experiences and surviving Rwanda’s own holocaust.
What drew you to directing The Investigation?
I discovered this play on stage and immediately it struck me as incredibly topical even though it
deals with events that date from the Second World War. Evidently, as I listened to the play,
Rwanda came to mind at every moment. But it wasn’t just Rwanda: there
The Investigation
was also the backdrop of modern society of which the Nazi genocide was one of the most
extreme aspects. In short, it is a play about the genocide which is neither fascinated by the
murders nor dedicated to solemn commemoration. The play exposes the facts clinically,
methodically, and allows the public to draw their own conclusions about the stories. It is this
method of giving responsibility to the audience that most appealed to me.
What similarities do you find between the Rwandan and German experience of genocide in the
play?
The Frankfurt trial was the first trial where a German court judged the Germans for the acts
they committed in the name of their country. The resonance of this trial went further than just
the accused. The whole of Germany was forced to confront its contradictions: the weight of all
that happened could not simply rest on the shoulders of a few defendants. The situation is
similar in Rwanda at the moment. The Gacaca trials, which are the trials happening in the
districts that involve the whole population, started three years ago. In both cases, Rwanda and
Germany, it is a case of collective trauma, a national drama. Notably, one specific aspect unites
Rwanda and Germany – that the genocide of the Jews, like the genocide of the Rwandan
Tutsis, was a legal crime. The killers were not working outside the law; it was rather that
zealous patriots were working for a criminal state. When they killed, they had the law and the
state on their side.
What do you want the audience to take away from this production?
One leaves this play having lost some illusions about the society in which we live. This
awareness is not in vain at a time when in Darfur we are perhaps seeing the first genocide of
the 21st century.
What were your experiences during the Rwandan genocide? What lessons can the international
community learn from it?
I was 24 at the time of the genocide in Rwanda, but I was very naïve politically. I think I knew
the name genocide, but it didn’t mean anything to me or for many youths of my generation.
Many of my childhood friends were killed: others began yelling racist insults like football
hooligans and became murderers. It is my opinion that we had the most foolish childhood and
therefore became the most dangerous because we were the most manipulated. We were
ignorant of all the lessons of history, ignorant of the dramas of other nations which could have
guided us in the situation we found ourselves in.
What lesson can the international community take from Rwanda? I don’t know! That the peace
of the world depends greatly on the opportunities we offer to the young generations of Africa,
Latin America, Asia and elsewhere  to open their minds, to go out, to travel, to interact with
others, to become more rich spiritually and intellectually. Unfortunately, the immigration
policies of most Western countries mean that most of these young people are simply restricted
to their native lands like prisoners. This is an enormous risk for the world: fanaticism thrives
on such isolation of populations.
Can there ever be reconciliation from the Rwandan massacre?
We will never have reconciliation if we see it as a goal in itself. If there is reconciliation one
day, it will be the long-term result of many factors. Justice must have been reached; the crimes
and the criminals will have been judged and condemned. A long, slow, uphill educational
journey will have to be taken: notably to give the young generation new criteria for identity that
is less narrow and extreme. Economic progress is necessary as well for many, both in the
regional and international context. Rwanda is not an island – if the world is doing badly, it
would surprise me if Rwanda were doing any better.
Why did you convert from Catholicism to Islam?
I converted when I was sixteen years old almost as one falls in love. Islam was like a personal
conquest, like a fiancée. There were very few Muslims in Rwanda: we knew very little about
them; we have lots of prejudices about them. The day that I overcame my prejudices out of
curiosity, read the Koran, and stepped inside a mosque I never wanted to look back. Well now
I have no faith: I no longer believe in God.
You have lived in France and Belgium: what are the challenges facing Africans involved in
theatre there? What are the solutions to address them?
There are some very good actors in France and Belgium: many good writers, but very few
directors, just as there are very few directors in cinema. It is, in fact, a huge necessity because
Africa has a catastrophic image. Not only must we use theatre or cinema for showing pretty
images of Africa, but also for showing a less simplistic reality: “It is not enough to show true
things, we must also show the truth of things,” said Brecht. This task for Africa is the first
responsibility for African directors. To achieve that, Africans need to engage also in other areas
of work that the arts depend on, notably those linking to financing cultural projects: production,
broadcasting, and cultural management.
What future projects can we see you in?
At the moment I am acting in a play called Bloody Niggers! It is a play that I have written,
which deals with colonisation and the dictatorships in Africa among other things. The play is
touring this season in French-speaking countries. You can see extracts on myspace at
myspace.com/bloodyniggers. In April, I will play the role of James Baldwin in an adaptation of
his play Fire Next Time.
The Investigation is running from October 31-November 10 at the Young Vic theatre in
London.
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Haut du formulaire
Bas du formulaire
ARTS & WEEKEND
Performing Arts
How do you best convey horror on stage? Dramatists and directors have dug deep on this one,
using lighting, effects and graphic violence to express the brutality of which man is capable.
Dorcy Rugamba, director of this production, has first-hand experience of atrocity: his family
was killed in the Rwandan genocide. Yet his staging of Peter Weiss’s The Investigation is
striking in its dignity and calm.
It is in the contrast between the composure of the actors and the horrific deeds that they
describe that the power of this production resides. The implication is that apparently ordinary
people can commit genocide – an implication reinforced by the fact that the piece the company
performs is about Auschwitz. Audiences for the earliest productions of The Investigation must
have hoped that such determined extermination of people would never happen again: this
staging quietly reminds us that it has.
Weiss’s documentary play is based on the 1963 war crimes trial in Frankfurt. Rugamba, his co-
director Isabelle Gyselinx and his adaptor Jean Beaudrillard edit the play down and deliver it in
French, with English surtitles. The seven actors, all clad in smart cream suits, take it in turn to
play prosecutors, witnesses and defendants. All this, you might think, would distance you from
the events described. But it doesn’t. No matter how many times you have heard them before,
the accounts of casual brutality, sadistic torture and efficient mass murder still prove sickening.
The actors take the stage slowly, assembling as if for a solemn but pleasant ceremony, and then
proceed to describe hell on earth. It is through detail that the horror emerges: the doctor who
describes seeing diseases in the camp that he thought only existed in textbooks; the witness
who recalls the clumps of hair in the gassed victims’ hands.
The production draws no parallels between Auschwitz and more recent atrocities. But it gives
the final word to a witness who claims that “the society that produced the camps is our
society”. His statement reminds us that in both cases the murderers and victims emerged from
among ordinary people and it leaves the question hanging in the air: how can we prevent such a
thing happening again?
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
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London, Wednesday 21.11.07Tuesday 13.11.07
Confronting a genocide
By Claire Allfree, Metro 23.10.07
Add your view

Seeking reconciliation: Dorcy Rugamba hopes his play helps Rwandans face the horror of the
1994 genocide
On April 6, 1994, Dorcy Rugamba left his parents’ home in Kigali to visit his aunt in the south
of Rwanda. That evening, he was planning to drive back but his father persuaded him that he
should return the next day.
The following morning, Hutu militia broke into his parents’ house and killed everyone except
his younger brother: the first day of a genocide that would last another 90 and in which an
estimated 1million Rwandan Tutsis would be killed. ‘When my brother called to tell me what
had happened, I thought it was a vendetta just against my family,’ says Rugamba, who fled
within a week into Burundi. ‘It was only later that I realised what was going on.’
Today, Rugamba, a theatre practitioner who has worked with Peter Brook, is looking
surprisingly fresh-faced despite having just arrived on the Eurostar from Belgium. Although he
has since built a new life in Brussels, he always knew that at some point he would have to deal
with the psychological legacy of a genocide that not only took his family but which was
perpetrated by an enemy that came from within. ‘I knew the people who had killed my parents,’
he says. ‘They were neighbours; I used to go to school with them. I was scared. But I couldn’t
just put it to one side.’
He returned to Kigali in 1999 to co-author and perform in a play called Rwanda 94, a
European-led initiative that wove together survivor testimonies with music, comedy and
fictional reconstructions. ‘It was six hours long but everyone stayed,’ he says proudly.
The experience of that indirectly inspired his latest production with the Rwandan theatre
company Urwintore, which he set up in 2001: a revival of Peter Weiss’s searing 1965
docudrama The Investigation, which can lay claim to being among the first to employ verbatim
techniques – it’s based on the transcripts of the 1964 Frankfurt war crimes trials of German
citizens for their role in running Auschwitz. It was performed in Rwanda in 2005.
It’s undoubtedly provocative to use the Jewish Holocaust to tell the story of Rwanda: it’s not
just that it revisits a subject already widely explored in the arts over one that hasn’t been but it
might imply that the Rwandan genocide isn’t worthy of a play in its own right. Rugamba is well
aware of these concerns and defends the decision passionately. ‘Plenty came to see Rwanda 94
in Butare and Kigali but there were plenty who didn’t,’ he says. ‘Many thought the story was
being told against them. They felt interrogated and accused. So I wanted to find a way to make
them confront what was inside them through the safety net of someone else’s story.’
Rugamba is emphatic that he is not trying to say both genocides were the same. But he does
point out that, since The Investigation is based on a trial, it reflects the same process of asking
questions that Rwanda is currently going through.
‘I was particularly swayed by Hannah Arendt’s phrase "the banality of evil" to describe how
ordinary people got caught up in the Nazi regime, because the defendants in the Frankfurt trials
were not important figures,’ he says. ‘They were mostly ordinary men following orders, Yet, in
executing those orders, they used their own personal cruelty and that’s significant. Some people
mixed up the ideas of war and genocide, as if the acts that took place were acts of war. This is
an argument we also find in Rwanda. Some who have admitted to crimes justify them by
saying they considered they were at war and under attack. It is a way of denying the genocide
by claiming it was war.’
Most people in Rwanda only had a superficial knowledge of the Jewish Holocaust before their
own genocide occurred.For many, the discovery that a similar sort of thing had happened
before was both an appalling shock and an odd form of consolation. ‘There’s a bit in the play
where they talk about mutilating women and in Rwanda that line really hit women hard,’ says
Rugamba. ‘They said: "That’s not possible. We thought it had only happened here." It gave me
the impression that it helped them to know that it had happened elsewhere.’
These days, it is illegal in Rwanda to denote someone as being Tutsi or Hutu and Rugamba has
no idea of the individual ethnicity of his actors (each deliberately play both victims and
perpetrators). ‘By having Rwandan actors play Germans and Jews, it becomes impossible for
anyone to watch it and say "that’s not my story",’ he says. ‘Because it becomes everyone’s
story. It becomes universal.’
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CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
http://www.curtainup.com
A CurtainUp London Review
The Investigation
by Charlotte Loveridge
We call them heroes but their deaths were senseless—Witness
Kenny Nkundwa
(Photo: Tristram Kenton)
With implicit historical parallelism, Urwintore’s production of Peter Weiss’ The Investigation is
played by a cast of Rwandan actors, all of whom are survivors of the 1994 genocide. Whilst
the Gacaca village tribunals are currently occurring, this production explores an earlier genocide
and the legal attempt to provide some sort of coherent explanation, retribution and healing.
Already shown in Paris, Belgium and Rwanda, this production has deservedly met with great
critical acclaim internationally.
The play itself is a transcription of testimonies given during the 1963 trial in Frankfurt where
survivors of Auschwitz faced those in charge of the camp. Recounting their memories, the
horrific is patchworked together with grim everyday reality. They variously describe how
prisoners in the camp would fight over the tiniest shred of food or how merciless, senseless
torture and killing was endemic to their existence. Without the aid of anything other than the
spoken word, the dialectic of the trial reconstructs both sides’ versions with some memories
buried and forgotten, some exaggeration and much evasion.
The lack of artifice in this documentary or verbatim play is combined with a cast who have
personally experienced such atrocities. In fact, the cast must be the qualified actors imaginable
and their sheer emotional bravery in tackling this project is astounding. The production itself
enhances this sense of bare authenticity with an uncomplicated, minimal theatrical façade. The
stage is blank except for two skeletal lecterns and a raised platform. The delivery of the
speeches has a simple directness, mimicking the impartiality of the legal justice system and
conspicuously at odds with the emotiveness of the subject.
The actors interchangeably adopt the roles of accuser, accused and interrogator. Interludes of
African songs end, lurching back into one cast member accusing another. This brings out a
major theme of the production: that the genocide was not two discrete, unbreachably different
groups of people but a single humanity inflicting atrocities upon themselves. The production
suggests that this is one key to first understanding and then preventing a similar recurrence. As
one of the witnesses states, "It was the same men who were both prisoners and guards. . . what
happened ought to be comprehensible even today. Those chosen to play the role of prisoners
were brought up with the same values as those who played the role of guards. . . And if they
hadn’t been called prisoners, they might just have easily been called guards. We must get rid of
this exalted attitude that this camp world is beyond our comprehension."
There is no heavy handed catharsis or moralistic indictments but just a deceptively simple
production which tackles the terrifying cost of ignoring history: how the unimaginable can
recur and how humanity overlooks the didactic potential of the past at its own peril.
THE INVESTIGATION
Written by Peter Weiss
Adapted by Jean Beaudrillard
A production by Urwintore
Conceived and directed by Dorcy Rugamba and Isabelle Gyselinx
With: Léon Athanase Mandali, Lyliane Matabishi, Samuel Muteba, Kenny Nkundwa,
Thomas Nyarwaya, Olivier Rangira, Aimable Twahirwa
Design: Fabienne Damiean
Lighting Design: Manu Deck
General Manager: Steve Rukongi
Technical Director: Yoris van den Houte
In French with English sur-titles translated by Alexander Gross
Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7922 2922
Booking to 11th November 2007
Reviewed by Charlotte Loveridge based on 1st November performance at the Young Vic, 66
The Cut, London, SE1 8LZ (Tube: Waterloo)
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Haut du formulaire
Theatre
The way I see it: Dorcy Rugamba
Published 01 November 2007
Dorcy Rugamba is a Rwandan actor, playwright and founder of the Urwintore company,
which performs “The Investigation”, Peter Weiss’s 1964 play based on the Auschwitz trials, at
the Young Vic until 10 November (www.youngvic.org)
1 Does art make a difference?
Art can contribute to the peace of the world, succeeding where war, politics and business have
failed, by allowing cultures and civilisation to interact with one another.
2 Should politics and art mix?
Every form of expression destined for a large audience has a political impact. Even when an
artist chooses never to deal with politics, it is a political choice – that of not questioning the
running of world affairs.
3 Is your work for the many or for the few?
It is created for everyone, but at the same time meant to be appreciated by a small number of
people at a time. My work focuses on theatre and writing, two very intimate media.
4 If you were world leader, what would be your first law?
States that sell armaments would be barred from the UN Security Council. Admittedly, there
would be no one left on the Security Council, but at least then it would be obvious that our
security is assured by no one.
5 Who would be your top advisers?
When you see how popular heroes age – the Castros, the Mitterrands or Mugabes of this world
– it doesn’t make you want to entrust the world to a charismatic leader. I would have only
renowned dead people in my government.
6 What, if anything, would you censor?
I would abolish flags, hymns and all those things that create contentious brotherhoods and
hereditary enmities between men.
7 If you had to banish one public figure, who would it be?
A character from fiction – God, for example, who would be politely asked to remain for ever in
his sky and to leave men to their own devices.
8 What are the rules that you live by?
Happiness is for now, today; not tomorrow.
9 Do you love your country?
I love my country with a passion. However, I am wary: patriotism can lead to nationalism,
which is an illness of the heart.
10 Are we all doomed?
On the contrary, we are incredibly lucky. Every one of us has beaten more than a hundred
million sperm to have been born! There are only winners on earth.
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Two genocides meet on stage
OneWorld UK
By Daniel Nelson
Peter Weiss’ verbatim theatre piece, The Investigation, caused controversy when he wrote it
from evidence by prisoners and guards given at a Nazi war crimes hearing in the German
city of Frankfurt in 1963. Critics said it dishonoured and distorted the Holocaust: it didn’t
even mention the Jews.
Today it’s seen as a classic, and still carries a punch, even though most of us are have read
books and articles and seen films and photographs of the genocide. The starkness of the
words and presentation still has the power to shock – thank goodness, because the day they
don’t means our humanity is dead.
The current version of the play at the Young Vic in London carries a double impact, because
it is performed by a cast of Rwandan and Congolese actors, some of whose experiences are
living proof that the post-Second World War cry of “Never Again” has been betrayed.
Many of director Dorcy Rugamba‘s family were killed in the Rwandan genocide. He was
lucky to escape. In Europe, he co-authored a six-hour work on the terrible events of 1994:
after award-winning productions in Belgium and France he took the production to Rwanda
where members of the audience sometimes fainted.
It is the Rwandan element that gives Young Vic production an edge. The work still stands on
its own merits as a potent theatrical event, and is beautifully performed, but knowing that the
actors have a relationship with an organised attempt to kill all Tutsis and moderate Hutus is
the factor that probably will draw in British audiences. And why not?
Because of this bridge between the two genocides I wish the theatre, or Urwintore (the group
founded by Rugamba in Kigali in 2001) or some outside organisation, had provided a little
more background – in the programme or in separate leaflets – about the Rwandan genocide,
or about genocide in general.
Few people in this country know much about what happened, and it is a pity to miss any
opportunity to spread information on this vital subject. It would also reinforce the message
that Urwintore’s production underlines: that the Nazi concentration camps, or the Rwandan
massacres, were not inexplicable phenomena at which we can only gawp and condemn; that,
in the words of a survivor quoted in the play, “The society that produced the camps is our
society.”
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Open Access
ENQUIRE WITHIN back
Sunday 4th November 2007
Theatre Review | THE INVESTIGATION | Urwintore @ Young Vic Theatre
Production: The Investigation
Playwright: Peter Weiss, adapted by Jean Beaudrillard
Producer: Urwintore
Venue: The Young Vic
Address: 66 The Cut, London SE1 8LZ
Box Office: +44 (0)20 7922 2922
Dates: 31 October – 10 November 2007
Opened: 1 November 2007
Reviewed by Joanna Bacon

Thirteen years after the Rwandan civil war and genocide, the Rwandan company
Urwintore presents this version of Peter Weiss’s 1965 docu-drama, based on transcripts
of 319 witness testimonies given in Frankfurt in 1963.
By choosing to put on a work about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the discussion of
the more recent crimes in Rwanda is lifted to embrace the bigger picture. We have heard
about the Holocaust time and time again, and yet how can it be that the prevailing
conditions for such a crime as genocide are still present in the world?
Weiss’s play paints a terrible picture of ‘life’ in the death camps, and yet does not seek to
judge the (obvious) perpetrators. It has bigger fish to fry. We hear the stories of guards
as well as prisoners who survived, all telling their version of the truth. Memory has an
unwitting selection process; these variations are not simple lies. And human faith
enables prisoners to line up quietly for whatever fate and not to cause trouble; something
in them believes they will live. And yet no guard has faith that they have any power to
halt a genocidal process.
This accomplished and charismatic company of Rwandan actors wander on in cool
cream outfits and unfold their stories in French, while English subtitles come up on
screen, somehow underlining the courtroom scenario. In one astonishing episode, a
scene was acted in an African scenario and language, and then repeated in French. This
was peculiarly powerful – signifying, in my opinion, that the problems are the same old
ones, and we all recognise them, whatever the language, timing and nationality.
What is the power of the piece? The play does not seek revenge or justice. Peter Weiss
gives no answers. Any answer is simplistic, anyway. The final scene seeks facts as
answers but they are refuted as ‘political’ by those who hold a different viewpoint, and
so, per se, they are not answers to the real question. Let us only note the ordinariness of
the people carrying out orders. Let us remember the streets were crowded with passers-
by when the Jews were loaded and transported. Let us remember the relatively few
officers who doubted the ‘secret war objective’ of the higher echelons, who were torn
apart by guilt and imprisoned or killed for defeatist remarks and other insubordinations.
What can you do except carry on? And any one of us might be a prisoner or a guard.
This company is imbued with dignity, and the power of a people who share a memory
of terrible events in their collective consciousness. What this production brings home is
that there is no point discussing ‘evil’, or what a maniac Hitler (or whatever individual)
was. No point in singling out the Shoah, or the Rwandan as the centre of a comforting
Mass in which we all chant ‘never again’. There are only ever the social and economic
conditions of a society, the society that makes it possible. Just notice that it can only be
by when the Jews were loaded and transported. Let us remember the relatively few
officers who doubted the ‘secret war objective’ of the higher echelons, who were torn
apart by guilt and imprisoned or killed for defeatist remarks and other insubordinations.
What can you do except carry on? And any one of us might be a prisoner or a guard.
This company is imbued with dignity, and the power of a people who share a memory
of terrible events in their collective consciousness. What this production brings home is
that there is no point discussing ‘evil’, or what a maniac Hitler (or whatever individual)
was. No point in singling out the Shoah, or the Rwandan as the centre of a comforting
Mass in which we all chant ‘never again’. There are only ever the social and economic
conditions of a society, the society that makes it possible. Just notice that it can only be
done with the implicit support of society.
Joanna Bacon © 2007
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Archive: THE INVESTIGATION. To 10 November.
Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Nov 07, 2007 – 12:25 PM London
THE INVESTIGATION
by Peter Weiss adapted by Jean Baudrillard.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November.
Simply staged, devastatingly presented.
From Holocaust to Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide: the 20th-century in a deadly nutshell.
Dorcy Rugamba and Isabelle Gyselinx bring their adaptation of the documentary drama Peter
Weiss drew from the 1963 Frankfurt investigation into Auschwitz to reflect on the 1990s
slaughter in their homeland of Rwanda.
Accounts from prisoners and guards collide, witnesses clash. Those in charge seem to have
known little, while those who suffered have sharp memories. An individual outburst of
persistent Nazism comes as a shock. The point about the aftermath of flaring ethnic violence is
that what could not have happened did happen. And something so irrational can only be
explained in terms of what happened. Any explanation has to be pieced together from the
evidence.
In London (alas, the only British performances), Urwintore’s Rwandan production illuminates
the Nazi death process. Played in their own country, the drama’s European events must have
sprung out with shocking familiarity. It’s chilling enough to realise any of these seven players
could have been caught up by the slaughter of the 1990s.
The performance is in French, with projected English translation. Except for one scene. It
follows a passage where the company sit in a line on the platform-stage, speaking serial
allegations. One actor, young and innocent-looking, calmly answers for all the accused.
Suddenly, there’s a flare-up between an accuser and accused, and as the language veers from
French and translation stops, the linguistic gap mirrors the confusion of traumatic times, before
events are replayed in French. Apparent recollection of horrors assimilated into people’s lives
has suddenly been stripped away, showing raw nerves living on beneath.
One feature of the Auschwitz extreme is its impact on the notion of civilised behaviour. A
camp officer can show untypical kindness, his wife knit a garment for a prisoner’s child. But
for the inmates of Auschwitz every possession, every advantage that can be scraped becomes
an essential for individual survival.
A bare stage provides different levels and a couple of bars suggest courtroom stands. But
neither script nor production needs more than the unsentimental, well-judged performances
provided in this riveting 90 minutes.
Cast: Leon Athanase Mandali, Lyliane Matabishi, Samuel Muteba, Kenny Nkundwa, Thomas
Nyarwaya, Olivier Rangira, Aimable Twahirwa.
Directors: Dorcy Rugamba, Isabelle Gyselinx.
Designer: Fabienne Damiean.
Lighting: Manu Deck.
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Theatre & Listings
CHARTING THE HOLOCAUST
1 November 2007
THE INVESTIGATION
Young Vic,
The Cut, SE1
Until Nov 10
Mon – Sat 7.30pm
020 7922 2922
http://www.youngvic.org
Just thirteen years after their own holocaust, a company of actors from Rwanda come to
Europe to perform a play about Auschwitz – The Investigation.
A sensation wherever it has appeared, these are the only UK performances.
Written by Peter Weiss, author of the Marat Sade and pioneer of documentary theatre, The
Investigation is regarded as one of the most influential plays about the holocaust.
Weiss’ original five hour play was based on reports and debates from the 1964 Frankfurt trial
where German citizens were prosecuted for their role in running the camps at Auschwitz.
Rwandan theatre company Urwintore present a 90 minute version that subtly implies the
question – how could we have let this happen again?
In his adaptation, director, actor and playwright Dorcy Rugamba links the worlds of
yesterday’s Europe, fifty years after the holocaust, and today’s Rwanda ten years after the
genocide of the Batutsi.
Dorcy Rugamba was born in 1969 to a family of artists. His father Cyprien Rugamba was a
writer, choreographer, composer and, until 1994, founder and Artistic Director of the
Amasimbi Amakombe Ballet Company. The Rwandan genocide claimed the lives of more than
one million people in three months. Rugamba’s family died on the first day. Fleeing from
Rwanda, he settled in Brussels where he attended the Department of Dramatic Arts at the
Conservatoire Royal du Musique de Liege.
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Reviews
The Investigation
By Peter Weiss, adapted by Jean Baudrillard
Urwintore
Young Vic
Review by Philip Fisher (2007)
The Investigation provides a true cultural melting pot: a play by a Czech-born Swede about
Nazi war crimes, translated into French and performed by a company of Rwandans in England.
The primary interest was always likely to be the opportunity to see actors who have witnessed
their own genocide responding to the Holocaust, which almost removed a whole community
two generations before.
For much of its 90 minutes, the production, conceived and directed by Dorcy Rugamba and
Isabelle Gyselinx for Urwintore, will seem strange to European eyes.
The seven actors, six men and a woman all dressed in off-white, make a slow, deliberate
entrance into an almost bare playing space. This sets the tone for an evening that understands
the seriousness of its subject.
For part of the time, witnesses give testimonies about the horrors of Auschwitz, generally
remaining impassive and unemotional even when describing the deaths and disappearances of
loved ones.
Much of the play is also taken up with the 1964 War Crimes Trial in Frankfurt, which
investigated the guilt of those who administered the camps. Without exception, they deny
complicity, either protesting mistaken identity or claiming that they were forced into murderous
actions.
There are some truly chilling moments running through The Investigation and one really feels
for a team of actors who know how close these stories are to their own experiences.
The production is very low-key, presumably to contrast the delivery with the tales that are
recounted, although there are occasional moments of anger, one replayed in the language of
Rwanda (?) and then surtitled in French in order to draw a specific parallel between the two
horrors.
The Investigation is moving, if deliberately untheatrical, addressing as it does such terrible
treatment of human beings twice over. It joins a select canon that, in recent years has been
spearheaded by Antony Sher’s supremely humane performance in his own adaptation of Primo
Levi’s If This is a Man.
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Are plays about genocide a betrayal of the dead?
Looking at work concerned with crimes against humanity, it appears that those involved are
often acutely aware of the problem.
Chris Wilkinson
November 9, 2007 8:30 AM
Thomas Nyarwaya in Peter Weiss’s Holocaust play The Investigation. Photograph: Tristram Kenton
How do you present some of the biggest crimes in the history of humanity on stage? Do artists
even have a right to try and tackle things like the holocaust or the Rwandan genocide in their
work?
The philosopher Theodor Adorno once said that "writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric."
Is the creative imagination, then (the chief tool of any artist), simply too feeble, too profoundly
inadequate to fully comprehend the awesome and extreme cruelty of these acts of destruction?
Does any attempt to recreate what happened through fiction run the risk of misrepresenting or
belittling the events with the result being yet another betrayal of the dead?
If you look at many of the plays and films that have arisen in response to these events it
becomes clear that those who create them are acutely aware of this problem. The Young Vic’s
current production of Peter Weiss’s Holocaust play The Investigation is a good example. The
play itself is based entirely on the verbatim transcripts of the Frankfurt war crimes trials.
Though the show is deliberately quite static in its staging, it gains its power not just from the
testimony that is delivered, but from the fact that the actors performing it are from Rwanda and
the Congo, and have, like their director Dorcy Rugamba, firsthand experience of very similar
events.
The show derives its authority and strength from its absolute authenticity as much as from any
creative or interpretive decisions made by the company. This was similarly the case with Rash
at this year’s Edinburgh fringe. Performed by Jenni Wolfson, an actor and former humanitarian
aid worker in Rwanda, it tied together her personal journey and her eyewitness testimony
(complete with some graphic and disturbing slides) of the genocide’s aftermath.
Of course, adhering too closely to the historical record can be problematic. Miracle in Rwanda
which was based on the autobiography of one survivor, Immaculee Ilibagiza, was a big hit in
Edinburgh this year. But as Maxie Szalawinska has pointed out, it is questionable as to why it
was so successful. The piece was well-meaning but simplistic and seemed to do little more than
provide edited highlights of Ilibagiza’s story – there was scant room for the context or reflection
on events that we see in other, similar shows. Perhaps what moved people was the simple fact
of her experience rather than anything to do with how it was communicated.
Yet even when storytellers try to go beyond just a literal representation of testimonies, concrete
reality has a habit of crashing through into the fictionalised world. The films Hotel Rwanda,
Shooting Dogs and Sometimes in April are all (to a greater or lesser degree) loose
dramatisations of true events. But with all of these, the use of documentary news footage
becomes a regular feature. One recurring sequence is that of Christine Shelley, the
spokesperson for the US state department, trying to justify her administration’s total lack of
action to halt what was happening. Her desperate semantic wrangling as she tries to distinguish
between "genocide" and "acts of genocide" makes for a shocking contrast to the horror of what
we see.
In all these cases, it seems that the magnitude of what happened is such that these artists have
conceded that the creative imagination really isn’t enough to truly comprehend it.
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THE INVESTIGATION AT THE YOUNG VIC
Posted on: 6th November 2007 | Posted by: Emily Hill

In April 1994, Rwanda tore itself to pieces. In a matter of hundred days, between 500,000 and
one million Tutsis were slaughtered by extremist Hutu militia, armedwith guns and machetes.
Theatre director Dorcy Rugamba, who at the time was an ordinary student, happened to be
away from home when soldiers came to his house, where they executed his mother, father and
six of his siblings. Rugamba escaped to France, and since then has dedicated his career to
bringing the reality of what happened in Rwanda to the attention of the world.
In 1999, Rugamba wrote and produced Rwanda 94, a six hour depiction of the horror of
murder on an unimaginable scale. Now he and his creative workshop, Urwintore, have adapted
Peter Weiss’ acclaimed Holocaust drama The Investigation for the stage. Running for ten days
only at the Young Vic, the play simultaneously repels and compels you, as brutal facts of the
Nazi regime are interrogated in the clinical environment of the courtroom. Based on the
transcripts of the 1963-5 Frankfurt trials, where for the first time Germans confronted Germans
for their complicity at Auschwitz, the play has a clear relevance to Rwandans trying to come to
terms with their recent history – and to a wider world struggling to live with the fact that mass
murder was allowed to happen once again.
Thirteen years after that April morning, Rugamba’s message is one of hope, however: "I am
pacified," he told the Guardian. "But I’m pacified because I’m doing something. I may not be a
judge or a politician or a soldier, but I am doing something in the aftermath of this. I’m battling
with that whole period. I haven’t abdicated. So I’m not bitter about it. It hasn’t sullied me."
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The Stage
  By Alistair Smith
Published Fri 2 November 2007 at 13:05
The Investigation
Peter Weiss’ verbatim play is based on transcripts describing the experiences of both the
prisoners and guards at Auschwitz.
However, in this remarkable new production, performed in French by a Rwandan company, it
is made to address obliquely the genocide which the actors on stage have themselves lived
through.
The Young Vic’s auditorium is stripped back to the most basic of sets, while the cast are
dressed in cream suits, shedding jackets and hats as they shift from portraying a victim to one
of the accused and vice versa.
One is constantly reminded of the interchangeability of the two – “If they hadn’t been prisoners,
they might just as easily have been called guards,” we are told. Both in Auschwitz and Rwanda
it was countryman against countryman – a society tearing itself apart.
This is painfully moving theatre and its part transposition to the Rwandan genocide of the
nineties reminds us that while Auschwitz can seem like a piece of distant history to us,
elsewhere in the world it has an immediacy and relevance which we should not underestimate.
It seems slightly churlish to have a complaint at what is on the whole a marvellous piece of
theatre, but, on a technical note, I did find the surtitles frustrating in the way that they often
skipped words, or even entire sentences from the translation. It may well have been a practical
decision, but it proved distracting.
Lyliane Matabishi, Aimable Twahira and Leon Athanase Mandali in The Investigation at the
Young Vic, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Content is copyright © 2007 The Stage Newspaper Limited unless otherwise stated.
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The Jewish chronicle
Investigating Africa’s Shoah
02/11/2007
By John Nathan
A Rwandan director is using a drama about Auschwitz to explore the parallels between the
Holocaust and the genocide in his homeland. As the play opens in London, he talks to John
Nathan
History has witnessed many genocides, though only one Holocaust. Apart from fascist
sympathisers, and the occasional Iranian president, this has been the generally accepted view
since the Second World War.
A Rwandan director is using a drama about Auschwitz to explore the parallels between the
Holocaust and the genocide in his homeland. As the play opens in London, he talks to John
Nathan
History has witnessed many genocides, though only one Holocaust. Apart from fascist
sympathisers, and the occasional Iranian president, this has been the generally accepted view
since the Second World War.
But since 1994, when an estimated 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in just over
three months, it has become increasingly possible to use the word Holocaust in connection
with another atrocity.
Some reports put the total number of those murdered in Rwanda at over a million. The rate of
killing is comparable to that of Auschwitz. And it is to Peter Weiss’s play The
Investigation — which is based on the Auschwitz war crimes trials that took place in
Frankfurt in 1964 — that Rwandan theatre director and actor Dorcy Rugamba has turned to
better understand the atrocity suffered by his country, his people and his family.
“I wanted to see how, it is possible to have justice after genocide,â€
says the quietly-
spoken Rugamba in French through an interpreter. He was 24 when, in April 1994, his
parents and six of his siblings were killed in their family home. Rugamba survived because
his father, a writer and composer, had sent him on an errand to his aunt’s house in
another town.
Weiss’s verbatim play, first seen in this country in 1965 in a production directed by Peter
Brook, was taken from the transcripts of the Frankfurt war crimes trial which was set up in
1964 specifically for the crimes committed in Auschwitz. The trial brought survivors face-to-
face with their persecutors.
In Rwanda most of the killing was done by the Hutus; most of the dying, by Tutsis. And
although the differences between German and Hutu atrocities are clear, so are the parallels,
the main one being that, like the Jews, the Tutsis were singled out for annihilation.
These days the Rwandan legal system cannot cope with the number of crimes. So special
trials called Gacaca (pronounced “Gachachaâ€) have been formed throughout the country.
Survivors bring their testimony; defendants make their rebuttals or give their excuses.
“It’s always very animated,†explains Rugamba who took his production to the
Rwandan capital Kigali prior to the current run at London’s Young Vic.
With his play Rwanda ’94, Rugamba had made an earlier attempt to deal with the
genocide on stage, but the production was given a mixed reception by the Rwandan public.
“People would not come to the show for fear of being accused,†says the director. â
€œWhen Rwandans watched The Investigation, they said: ‘Ah Gacaca!’ But this trial
[in The Investigation] is not accusing anyone [in Rwanda]. It is one thing to get survivors to
talk about their experience. It is another thing to get the killers to talk.â€
One of similarities that struck Rugamba was the way in which the defendants in both
atrocities reacted when faced by their accusers.
“In The Investigation, the arguments of the killers are exactly the same as the arguments
of the Rwandan killers in today’s trials,†he says.
€œWhen Rwandans watched The Investigation, they said: ‘Ah Gacaca!’ But this trial
[in The Investigation] is not accusing anyone [in Rwanda]. It is one thing to get survivors to
talk about their experience. It is another thing to get the killers to talk.â€
One of similarities that struck Rugamba was the way in which the defendants in both
atrocities reacted when faced by their accusers.
“In The Investigation, the arguments of the killers are exactly the same as the arguments
of the Rwandan killers in today’s trials,†he says.
“A lot of people would say: ‘It was orders, our country was in danger, there had to be
sacrifices’ and ‘we also suffered’.
“And as well as using a similar defence, there were a similar attitudes when they
committed the crimes. Many were in euphoric state of mind as they killed. In Rwanda, they
also laughed.â€
Underlying Rugamba’s production, which has been cut down from Weiss’s five-
hour original to a more manageable 90-minutes, is the question of how, after the Holocaust,
another genocide was allowed to happen. Ignorance of other peoples’ stories plays a
part, says Rugamba.
“The hardest thing for me to understand, apart from my parents dying, was that the young
people who killed them were my friends. Childhood friends who I had known all my life.
People knew that there had been a Jewish genocide in the Second World War. But it was just
a line in a history book. They knew nothing about what happened, and why it happened. We
didn’t even understand the meaning of the word ‘genocide’ — that it meant
something different from the word ‘war’.â€
But staging The Investigation is not only a way of helping Rwandans understand their own
genocide. Rugamba also wants to broaden the horizons of his countrymen and women.
“If we want our story to be a universally understood, we must also understand the
universal stories of other people,†says the director.
And does he believe that with Jewish and Tutsi experience has taught the world how to
avoid another genocide? Rugamba’s answer is sad and unhesitating. “No.â€
The Investigation is at the Young Vic until November 10. Tel: 020 7922 2922;
http://www.youngvic.org. The Human Cost, an evening of reminiscence and song, with
contributions from Holocaust survivors, takes place on November 4.