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Playwright Marion Bott - 'Moormaid took shape as I sought the uncomfortable truths of European radicalisation'
- by Marion Bott
I remember being back home in France, trying to imagine what would need to happen for me to join a terrorist group like Isis. In 2014, I heard the shocking news that former classmates did just that. I wanted to better understand how this could have happened, and so I took the decision to investigate the roots behind such decisions and the consequences that these traumatic events have on our individual and collective unconscious.
Whilst studying at Filmuniversity Babelsberg, I chose to commit to this story and as I sought the uncomfortable truths, Moormaid took shape. I originally wrote it as a screenplay that would portray the psyche of three different characters rather than the political aspects behind these complex events. I finished writing the screenplay in German but understanding how urgent the subject matter was I felt that the story needed to be shown as soon as possible. Knowing the production process for a movie would take much longer, I began to adapt it into a theatrical chamber play.
Moormaid is set in a very classy flat in Berlin. It captures a lot of the Berlin spirit, although this piece could easily be set in many other European cities. I chose to tell this story though Melissa Dawud, a depressive arts teacher who dreamt to become a famous painter but compromised her desires for a sense of security. Melissa is ‘saved’ by Mehdi, her former student, who unexpectedly comes back into her life after disappearing two years ago. This very simple and solid dramatic meeting between the two main characters allowed me to dig deep into their complexities without stating the obvious. As I am forever fascinated in the metaphysical level of all situations, I worked a lot with alternative realities within the flat. The process of destruction and creation is also something that features heavily between the characters and throughout the play.
From the very beginning of this rather tormented inner and outer journey, I was committed to the truth of each of these characters rather than my own opinions about the subject. Throughout this whole process I have continued to ask myself ‘where is the human behind all this’? Through this piece I have wanted created a non-judgmental space in which we can ask questions, have honest discussions about our radicalized youth, and find the deeper meaning behind such events and what leads to these decisions.
I had previously worked with director, Zois Pigadas, on a self-written monologue and a devised piece at East 15 Acting School, and he encouraged me to write it in English and bring it to a London stage. I was always very aware that this subject is a pan-European theme, so I was very excited to write another version (and possibly translate it into French in the very near future too). From this moment on, serendipity did its work. Everybody and everything came together, and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such a brilliantly supportive creative team, who believes in the story and has the courage to address highly sensitive subjects in such a human, humble and respectful way.
The Arcola Theatre has a bold and international minded approach to its work, and so this is the perfect space for this story. I am very much looking forward to seeing the production come to life on stage and share it with an audience.