The players are already outlined at the starting line. The game is simple: questions are asked, those who obey take a step forward, those who disobey take a step back. Naturally, the one who obeys the most, the more he advances, the faster he moves towards the goal; whoever disobeys backs away from the possibility of ever winning the game. The winners, those who conquer power, glory, applause are, therefore, those who always agreed to say “Yes” and the defeated ones who said “No”. Shadows, ostracism, contempt, loneliness, if not worse, are reserved for these.
This is just a two-two-minute “Jogos de Obediência” that will be presented in the box of the Mário Viegas studio-room, in the S.Luiz theater, in the new piece by Marta Carreiras that premiered on the sixth fair, day 3 and will be until 19 of June. Games that we all learn to play since we were little, that we have played forever, but that is why we have to question ourselves. “Why is disobedience not taught?”is the question left by the director, in conversation with the Observer.
Within the framework of the project “The Holocaust and Modernity: violence and obedience in today’s societies”, financed by FCT — Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, the exhibition is part of a “triptych on obedience” that Marta Carreiras and Romeu Correia started in 2017, with the work “Pedro eo Capitão”, by Mario Benedetti, and continues now with these games that “do not focus on the disobedient like Aristides Sousa Mendes, but on the obedient like the Germans and all the others who, in silence, they accepted the extermination of the Jews, in which they always say ‘Yes’”, explains the director, who literally transformed the theater into a playing field, where everyone, actors and audience, become actors, accomplices , obedient.
The idea of showing how regimes of power train bodies to mold them better and more easily eliminate foci of disobedience through the idea of play and not torture, for example, shows quite clearly how current societies work, where the power is not. imposed already by explicit violence on the body (such as the tortures of the Middle Ages, or the asylums of the 19th century), but through subtle, sweet, but capillary forms, from childhood, but with special emphasis on adolescence: from the consumption of objects to be accepted in a group, to diets, to the rejection of everything that is not celebrated by the media, social networks, to the imitation and worship of celebrities and their “lifestyle”, the inculcation of the need to “win” or “enrich” as the great meanings of life and that ended, in the new generations, with the great ideologies that crossed the 20th century, for example.
“If adolescence is the time of rebellion, it is also the time when personalities are consolidated and the seeds of obedience and disobedience are born,” says the director. Therefore, the construction of this piece involved two workshops, one in São Teotónio, Alentejo, with children from immigrant communities who work in agricultural greenhouses, and another in Marvila, Lisbon. “They helped us realize that external circumstances go a long way in forging and instilling an obedient attitude. The poorest will always have the most to lose if and when they disobey. Those who come from the upper classes, those who are closer to the centers of power, have more confidence in themselves to disobey. The life of human beings does not have much space or moonlight to be exercised outside the context of norms, protocols, agreements, consensus. Wherever we are, we always adjust to a predetermined form and we do it without thinking about it”, says Marta Carreiras.
obey or die
Each viewer of these “Obedience Games” is asked to put on headphones. They all obey. There is a voice that welcomes us (Ivo Canelas) and represents the “Institution” that organizes the games. Four actors/players are profiled. They will play to the death if necessary. Some endure thirst, absurdity, injustice, inhumanity. They rarely disobey, although their body reacts, sometimes in the opposite direction: they are thirsty, they are tired, they begin to waver, they lose their way. But no one gives up. The representative of the “Institution”, who is a kind of television presenter, gradually becomes more despotic and the games more violent. But whoever says, like Bartleby, “I’d rather not,” runs the risk of dying alone, forgotten, leaning against a wall or waking up one day and having a case in court without knowing why, like Josef K.
The truth is that everyone has their reasons for obeying. The players are never on an equal footing, there are no good and bad, strong and weak. There are neither those who are always obedient, nor those who are always disobedient. Like power, obedience, which is another name for submission, changes. That’s why losers also become winners so often. Because, as Nietzsche wrote in “The genealogy of morality”, History is always challenging subjects, and it also promises them the pleasure of victory or blood, profits, privileges, acceptance. And there are also always those who manage to pervert the rules and make them turn against the dominators. Individuals also have within themselves a capacity to combat fatigue, weakness, insecurity, various forms of domination and violence. This can be found from the ascetic monks who abandoned everything to enter the forests, to the religious movements that broke with Catholic institutions, in the twelfth century, and formed autonomous communities in the countryside, such as the Beguines, in present-day Belgium. . , for instance. Other times it is the body or the mind, and this is shown in the play, which rebels, preventing the player from continuing in the game. The growth of mental illnesses and suicides among adolescents is, according to many psychiatrists and psychologists, nothing more than a reaction of “disobedience” to a system that forces them to always be at stake, that is, always answer “Yes” to new and fast requests.
This show is not about those who disobey, but about those who continue to play the game. Sometimes due to not being able to say ‘No’, sometimes due to a lack of instruments to identify the system as the producer of their wills and desires, sometimes due to fatigue or exhaustion, sometimes due to desistance, due to fear, due to relationships of belonging to a group or an empire, sometimes because there is nothing left” [Marta Carreiras]
The work, with a strong political character, was born at a time when generations were educated to lower their heads towards a screen, their bodies, their spinal column bent in the position of a slave. Raising your head and questioning a teacher, for example, is today “a gesture of great courage,” he says. Marta Carreiras, very critical of the School as a great producer of a mass of obedient people, despite the fact that, at the same time, she recognizes that “disobedience is not taught, it comes to us.”
“Obedience Games” is a dark piece, which inevitably leads us to dehumanization, The Banality of Evil, conceptualized by Hannah Arendt, but it is an accurate and intelligent artistic and cultural gesture, by staging this fundamental question of human societies: “The problem is not disobedience, the problem is obedience” (Howard Zin).
Obedience Games has six actors: Cuca M.Pires, Madalena Almeida, Rosinda Costa, Rui M.Silva, Vitor d’Andrade, Sílvia Filipe and Ivo Canelas (voiceover). The text and dramaturgy are by Raquel F., who gives voice to an important group of disobedient people such as Kafka, Camões, H.Melville, José Mário Branco, Maria Velho da Costa, Beckett, Carlos de Oliveira, José Gomes Ferreira, Helena Almeida. .
The play will be on stage until June 19 at the Teatro S. Luiz, in Lisbon, with the following times: from June 3 to 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m. Until June 9 with sessions for schools at 2:30 p.m. The play lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes.