In the hands of director Adena Jacobs and a cast of 20 children, the biblical Book of Exodus takes on a whole new meaning.
“THINK OF THE children” is a loaded phrase. As adults, we often attempt to bolster our political opinions by arguing that we’re speaking in the best interests of kids, who are the largest demographic in the world without a say in what happens in our future. You only have to look at the marriage equality plebiscite debate for a current example. It’s an irony not lost on Adena Jacobs, artistic director of Melbourne independent theatre company Fraught Outfit. “We don’t hear things from children’s perspectives, [yet] they are the
people who are at the centre of our times – the ones who are at the forefront of what’s possible.” The
Book of Exodus: Part 2 is the final instalment of Jacobs’ Innocence Trilogy, in which Fraught Outfit have reimagined old texts to be performed by children and teenagers. First there was On the Bodily Education of Young Girls (2013), followed by Euripides‘ The Bacchae (2015). The Book of Exodus: Part 1 (performed earlier this year) told the story of Passover, which follows the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. In each of these, Jacobs has worked with her casts to shape their responses to the texts into surreal, unsettling works. Part 2 opens in the desert, as the Children of Israel wait for their liberator, Moses, to receive the law of God. Broken by the horrors of the past and crying out for a leader, they become restless, desperate, and eventually, disobedient. They build a statue of a golden calf which they worship in place of God. When Moses returns to discover their transgression, God demands that they be punished. It’s a violent, difficult story that Jacobs has wanted to tell for many years. “I wondered what it would be like if we staged this idea with a literal group of children… children in a lawless state. If we think of God as an unstable parent who needs his children to come and worship him, but then punishes them for their response to him having abandoned them for a period of time, on a level of parental responsibility and the fundamental needs of a child, I think it’s super interesting.” If the idea of watching this story played out by kids feels unnerving, then that’s exactly what Jacobs is going for. The more Jacobs works with children, the more she realises just how much we underestimate them. “In terms of everything that’s happening at the moment politically, it feels bizarre to be hanging out with kids and just going, ‘They are way ahead of us.’”
à The Book of Exodus: Part 2, Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda 3182. 03 9534 3388. theatreworks.org.au. $30-$38. Oct 18-29.
“Children are the ones who are at the forefront of what’s possible”
Workshops and casting for The Book of Exodus: Part 2