After his experimental provocation at the Young Vic Theatre last week with his self-penned show Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere, award-winning political journalist and Guardian columnist Paul Mason makes his playwriting debut later this month at the White Bear Theatre. Divine Chaos of Starry Things, Mason’s play based on memoirs of 19th-century French feminist Louise Michel, gets its world premiere at the White Bear, running for a limited season from 25 April to 20 May 2017.
Paris, 1871. A revolt seizes control of a global city. In its final days, working class women – from seamstresses to teachers to sex workers- take up arms, desperate to defend the freedoms they have fought for and won. And then it is over, in a sea of blood.
In Divine Chaos of Starry Things, Paul Mason explores the agony of the defeat and exile of the Parisian women revolutionaries deported to the remote Pacific island of New Caledonia, their depression and isolation upon arrival and loss of hope as dreams of escape fade and a new reality descends. Tension simmers amongst the island’s indigenous people as resentment and rebellion hang in the air.
Based on the memoirs of 19th century feminist icon and revolutionary Louise Michel, this piece of theatre looks at what happens when downtrodden people experience the transformative power of mass action, only to be defeated. In our current world increasingly scarred by torture, mass incarceration, censorship and razor wire, the play looks at key questions surrounding oppression and resistance; what makes people refuse to surrender in the face of repression and how do people survive once the exhilaration of revolt is over?
Divine Chaos of Starry Things reflects Mason’s extensive research of the former French penal colony of New Caledonia, his travels there and his interviews with both descendants of the deportees and oral historians of the indigenous Kanak people. Post-show talks will be held after selected performances, hosted by Mason himself and including an exclusive look at his short video documentary ‘Traces of Louise Michel’.
Paul Mason says:
“After the miners’ strike, in 1984, I saw a whole generation of people struggle with the psychological impact of defeat. It made me want to discover how people survive. When I started writing this play, during the mass upsurge of revolt and optimism we call the Arab Spring and Occupy, these problems – of despair in the face of injustice – seemed very distant. They seem totally relevant now. Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced the exhilaration of revolt, followed by the reality of defeat.”