Europe and its staging – The staging of Europe University of Innsbruck
Colloquium organized by Dr. Prof. Nicole Haitzinger and Dr. Stella Lange
28. -29. June 2018

Kathrin-Julie Zenker and Fabien-Aïssa Busetta
Give us back Shakespeare, we will not claim for anything after that
A theatrical conference on the Wester Identity of Europe

« All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. »
William Shakespeare, As you like it
For this colloquium, we propose to think about the European cultural identity both from a scenic
proposal, interpreted by actor Fabien-Aïssa Busetta, then from a theoretical reflection on the
aesthetic issues of contemporary documentary theatre, brought by researcher Kathrin-Julie
Zenker. By bringing together a practical entry and an analytical entry, this two-person
conference will allow to reflect the history of Europe, and thus the real, through the prism of a
scenic, partly fictional, mise en acte.
Started in France in a residence at the Centre Dramatique National of Montpellier and presented
at the last edition of the Instanbul Art Biennale (IKSV), the creation « Give us back Shakespeare,
we will not claim for anything after that  » examines, through the prism of a performative
enactment, one of the cultural issues that intimately marks the history of Europe, namely its
relation to the East and more concretely to the colonial past.
When, in a meeting with heads of state, Muammar Gaddafi declared in 1989 the crypto Arabity
of William Skakespeare – his real name would be Shaykh Zubayr – his message is essentially
about Western cultural identity.
As the identity of European Theatre is essentiality built on poets like Shakespeare, what happens
when such cultural pillars are removed from our culture? Since Occidental identity has for long
been defined by opposition to the East (real or imagined by Orientalist theories) what happens if
this contrast is in fact artificial? If cultural borders are blurred, if we have to let go of our
Eurocentric vision?
More fundamentally so, this project sets the question of cultural identity. While we tend to
reduce it to a simplistic homogeneity, where Locals and Foreigners, currently immigrants, face
each other, we find out that cultural identity is multiple, complex. While we have kept
Shakespeare locked in our encyclopedias, are we certain that his poetry has not escaped for a
long time already? Based on theories of several writers and historians, both Westerners and
Easterners, this theatrical conference offers political, poetic and human interpretations of the
idea of the crypto-Arabism of one the historical pillars of European Theater. Thus, the creation
deals with the cultural backgrounds of Europe.
Aesthetically « Give us back Shakespeare, we will not claim for anything after that » is part of the
history of documentary forms and the problem of the fictionalization they pose. Starting from a
scenic aesthetic which is flirting with performance, the creation breaks not only the theatrical
paradigm of the stage as a place of fiction, but also that which opposes the person who is the
actor to the characters he plays.
While using non-drama and often documentary material, the aesthetics of fiction soon collide
with the more political question of the meaning of the play against Reality. As we create new
stories on stage, as we imagine a possible reality, what does a narrative that goes beyond the
factual historical research work bring to us? How and in which way is the truth of Art different
from the truth of History?
The theoretical intervention of Kathrin-Julie Zenker will firstly shed light on how « Give us back
Shakespeare » fits into what the French researcher Bruno Tackels defines as « Écritures de
plateau »1, namely that the text of the performance is written from the stage. Secondly, it will
shed light on the relationship between fiction and auto-fiction, echoing the work of Swiss
director Milo Rau in his trilogy on Europe.
Playing with his crypto-Arabism, Fabien-Aïssa Busetta whose origins lie somewhere between
Tunisia, Italy and the Levant, reflects on Shakespeare’s life through his own. Possible tales of the
poet’s life lead the author to an auto-fiction, mixing intimate and political thoughts. By triggering
a reflection on Orientalism, a widely imaginative theory, this creation highlights the power of
fiction over reality, the power of narratives on our lives.

Lien vers le programme du colloque