Mephisto (A Rhapsody) – an adaptation at The Gate
I was fortunate enough to be cast in Mephisto (a Rhapsody) at The Gate Theatre. A loose adaptation of the book by Klaus Mann, this version situates itself in Balbek; a small town in France where nothing happens, other than funding cuts, increase in unemployment and the rise of Fascism. Sound familiar? When a group of Actors as part of the Balbek Theatre decide to respond to their political surroundings by creating a new piece of theatre they’re met with policies propelled by the theatre’s Artistic Director. But its Actor Aymeric who’s
Mephisto was written in the 1930’s during Hitlers reign by Klaus Mann who based the book on a true story. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince his brother in law Gustaf Grundgens to go into exile with him, Mann resided in Spain whilst Grundgens performed for Hitler and hit the peak of his career.
The play constantly turned the spotlight back onto art and our roles as performers. I was forced to ask myself how much of the work that I do has any actual impact on the contemporary social issues we regularly face. I’ve known a lot of art, plays and media to have changed my own personal opinion but how much of it can change systems or cause a movement? These questions became all the more prominent when the demonstrations for Extinction Rebellion began to take place during our rehearsals.
This time was a great example of the burden many people face (myself included) when navigating through the world whilst trying to make a change to their environment. I don’t know if art has had any real contribution politically to social issues but I do know the more we go through struggles the more we as humans are inclined to tell stories, develop and evolve as artists and produce more work that has a political response to our surroundings. It may not be able to make change but it can definitely nurture the experience we all go through.
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All photographs by Cameron Slater