Becoming Berenice

Produced and presented by Theatre Forge

Two lovers strive to hold on to each other as political forces tear them apart. A multi-sensory, poetic tale of one woman’s painful journey to emancipation, this contemporary staging of one of France’s most iconic plays is underpinned by an original score of world- and electronic music and powerful physical elements.

In a new translation by Rosie Hilal, this verse drama is given a powerful, contemporary re-awakening. A French classic hardly known in Britain, Berenice was written by Jean Racine more than 300 years ago. This is the first time a Racine play has been translated by a woman, which given the subject matter and central character of the piece, makes for a uniquely feminist interpretation of his work.

Three central characters, from Palestine, Syria/Turkey (the occupied East) and Rome (the imperial, dominating West) revolve around the impossibility of love in an intimate, in-the-round setting, where music and movement bring to the fore the cultural and societal clashes inherent in the play.

The agonising opposition of public duty versus private love begs the question of how much we are ever in control of our freedom, and how far we can go for love without giving up our own identity. In some ways, Berenice and Titus recall a grown-up Romeo and Juliet, with an uncertain outcome.

David Furlong (director) of London’s francophone Exchange Theatre, teams up with Rosie Hilal (translator), Tomas Wolstenholme (music) and Jennifer Kay (movement) to create a powerful piece of theatre with music. Some text will be set to music and sung, like a modern electro-opera, and a silent Roman ‘chorus’ will make this a uniquely theatrical version of the timeless French tragedy. The music draws from Rosie Hilal’s own Eastern cultural heritage, as well as the harsh yet rhythmically seductive sounds of modern electronic music and drum & bass.

This is a cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary drama supported by Dramaturg Phil Morris of the Wales Arts Review, Exchange Theatre, Longfield Hall Trust (Lambeth), the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Cambridge University French faculty, and Theatre Delicatessen. The company was invited to La Factorie, a French Arts Centre and Poetry House for an artistic residency in January 2019.

Antiochus - Matt Franco
Arsace - Ariane Barnes
Berenice - Rosie Hilal
Paulin - Amanda Maud
Phenice - Cindy-Jane Armbruster
Titus - Samuel Lawrence

Director: David Furlong
Costume designer: Charlie Baptist
Composer: Tomas Wolstenholme
Lighting Designer: Berta Pibernat

Movement Director: Jennifer Kay

Choreographer: Jose Triguero
Dramaturg: Phil Morris
Assistant Producer: Amber Savva
Intern: Kai Hoegenacker

Jenn's sensitivity made her work not only relevant but insightful. She worked exceptionally well with the different characters, body types and moods that can be present in any rehearsal process. She has a knack for gauging what makes actors tick and how to push at their physical boundaries gently and effectively. Her work was always primarily to serve the story, and she was flexible and inventive in the way she worked with the actors and team to do that. Jenn has a natural authority which exudes competence, understanding and calm, and I would trust her to work with anyone on anything in a confident and creatively stimulating and fun way. 
Rosie Hilal, Lead Artist and Artistic Director Theatre Forge
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