In­no­cence lost

In the hands of di­rec­tor Adena Ja­cobs and a cast of 20 chil­dren, the bib­li­cal Book of Ex­o­dus takes on a whole new mean­ing.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - ARTS & CULTURE - By Rose John­stone

“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”

Adena Ja­cobs

Work­shops and cast­ing for The Book of Ex­o­dus: Part 2

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