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Published on Sep 21, 2009
Documentary by Karin Kaper and Dirk Szuszies, based on "The Brig" by Kenneth H. Brown, performed by The Living Theatre, New York. World Premiere November 2009. 95 minutes, original english version, Digibeta 16:9. Production and Distribution: Karin Kaper Film Berlin, Germany, contact: email@example.com, www.karinkaper.com
Synopsis: It was an historic moment. Summer 2007, four decades after The Living Theatre had been driven out of New York, they have gloriously returned with a new version of The Brig by Kenneth H. Brown in their theatre on Clinton Street in the Lower East Side. This thrilling drama, about the inhuman conditions in a US Marine Corps prison, has lost none of its power and remains topically charged today. The Brig is not an everyday theatre piece. It is an act of rebellion, of passionate civil disobedience. The founders of The Living Theatre, Judith Malina and Julian Beck, were among the initiators New Yorks first General Strike for Peace in May 1963. It follows that they were the ones to take up ex-marine Kenneth Browns manuscript and bring it to the stage. The author describes his own experiences of daily life in a military prison, from reveille to taps. The viewer becomes a part of a claustrophobic world where there is no escape from the intrinsic violence. The stamping of marching boots creates an unreal rhythm and the prisoners perform a surreal ballet of terror. Guards and inmates develop into strange accomplices in a way that becomes representative of other aspects of society.
The Living Theatre, with their moving attack against a sacred institution like the Marines, became public enemies for American Officaldom. In Europe they found a second home especially in the Berlin Akademie der Künste in the 1960s. In 2007, the Living Theatre decided to revisit The Brig to protest against any form of violent governance, a sad fact that has not changed in the intervening decades. The new production struck a nerve in the present day and won at the New York Obie Awards for group and direction. The European premiere in 2008 was the opportunity for film directors Karin Kaper and Dirk Szuszies to capture the present strength of the piece and to document its historical meaning. In Italy the association of theatre critics regarded the production as best foreign play in 2008. As a former member of the Living Theatre, Dirk Szuszies is able to show the inner life of the group. These views are built into the filmed representation of the piece at interval in order to give the viewer other modes of observation. The original music by Patrick Grant expands the sensory impact of the film in an impressive and suggestive way.