Onur Ünsal on Bira Fabrikasi

In earlier months, we published our interview with one of the founders of Moda Sahnesi, Onur Unsal on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Below you can find the second part of the interview, in which Unsal explains what the theatre company is expecting from the audience of another thought-provoking play, Bira Fabrikasi.

Bira Fabrikasi - Moda Sahnesi
Bira Fabrikasi – Moda Sahnesi

In the movies Egreti Gelin and Jin, your characters’ direction in life has been changed by women who have not been given the chance to live the way they wanted. Can we say the same thing for Beyazbuyu, a woman who changes the balance of power despite the restrictions she faces?

But Beyazbuyu is a bad woman.

-But in the play, everyone is bad one way or another.

Yes they are all bad, that is being criticized in the play: everyone is bad. The play is actually about this: the encounter of two black men –they are not black in our play- with a black worker and the relations they have with Beyazbuyu. Basically, there are two civil war terrorists, someone from working class, and someone from the Western society. When you think like that, why is the Western society represented with a woman? Again, it is something metaphorical. I mean, there is something weird with that character being a woman. A pregnant woman. In a colloquial manner, you know there is this saying, the one who screws and the one who is screwed; the West screws, we are screwed. And Koffi Kwahule (the playwright) says that, the one who screws is a woman, the West, Beyazbuyu, the white. He says that first, western societies make you fall in love with them. They do not force you to do anything; you already want to do it, because you fall in love with them. It is actually vulgar, what the playwright says: for an African, the West is a hot pregnant woman. You fall in love with her, you worship her. She gives names to you, and you accept those names. You go crazy to reach her, thinking she desires you. No, that is not the case. As long as you are in love with her, you can be the manager of that factory. Otherwise, you end up as a beheaded independent person. We should think of that woman in this way. It is an evil female. It is a female who swallows everything. Therefore, I think that definition does not fit into this character, but it is very normal. Indeed, it is a common problem we are facing. We choose rather a conventional way when trying to understand certain texts. It is a woman, and we see her as a woman, but she stands as a metaphor. Someone has criticised us claiming that our plays were too masculine. We do not make masculine plays; we call men down in our plays, because it is the world we know. That is what we want to mock the most, but you think it is the truth we believe in. You think we defend what we show you, but can that be possible? Is there any chance of me defending my tirade about rape?

-It was quite disturbing.

Can I truly be thinking that way and saying all those things to the audience about such a disturbing concept? No, we are trying to show you this disturbing man. Like I said, people confuse certain things. As an indirect result of watching television, when people see something on stage, they do not see the metaphor behind it. They say, “He curses and makes the audience laugh.” That man is a civil war terrorist; he is written as a “terrorist clown”. What were you expecting from him? That man will establish a parliament; people should pay attention to that, right? All those men, they are crazy for Beyazbuyu. Take that as a metaphor. In a third world country, out of the desire to “screw” the West, they give everything they have. They give everything, unconsciously. Why? Because they are in love. They are crazy; they think they are superior to her. If you do not think in this way, then everything disturbs you. You need to watch the play in this way: the working class, the West, and two beheaded terrorists, who have no idea what they are doing. They have become independent in a wrong way; they have taken the bait in the form of freedom. Beyazbuyu starts with this confession when she enters: “Who did we liberate in a wrong way? Who did I make take the bait?” This is what happens in real life. People fight, they overthrow the dictator, but do they become independent? Trouble arises from there. Guns are everywhere, everyone slaughters each other. This is not bringing civilization, then. She must be after something else. In Africa, eight million died by only working, in twenty years. They died, because they worked. Eight million. It was the early twentieth century. Can there be such a thing? Who do they work for? You know the saying:

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

That is why the West is a hot pregnant white woman. She bears a child. She is that kind of a monster. It is not about being a woman or a man.

birafabrikası 2
Bira Fabrikasi – Moda Sahnesi

Even though your character makes the audience laugh, from time to time he also irritates them, and causes them to question their earlier opinions about him. But the audience does not have an obligation to like him. I wonder what kind of a process you went through, when you were figuring him out, internalizing him.

To be honest, I have not internalized him yet, but I understand what I must do. Again, when it comes to theatre, things get more complicated. Actually, we like the Kwahule a lot, just for doing what you said. We see him as a very important playwright. First of all, he does not apply the conventional understanding of theatre to his plays. He does not have rules. A woman can travel from France to Africa in five minutes. The play revolves around a theme and falls on it. This cycle repeats itself. Kwahule defines his play as jazz. You need to think of it as jazz. Then, things get difficult to understand, because there is no strict logic in the play. The play is not told in a linear fashion. One of the biggest concerns of Kwahule is the entertainment business, the understanding of entertainment. In the play, he makes lots of sentences with using the words “fun” and “joke”. He says, “fun is a joke,” “joke is a fun,”… At one point, a character says “the word ‘fun’ came to our language from English.” He makes an important statement there. He says that the situation was different before. Fun, stardom, atrocity, they are all fused with each other. Atrocity has become a medium of entertainment. They go hand in hand. Either you do not see something because of entertainment business, or you see it through entertainment. As an African, the playwright has something to say about this western way of thinking. By using irony, he keeps making the audience laugh at savagery. We are not having any problems with making the audience laugh. We value the moment they realize it is not the joke they are laughing at. It is not the regular laughter; it is a way of coping with something.

In the play, it says “two terrorist clowns enter.” What are they? A terrorist, or a clown? There is a big difference between them. The playwright wants us to portray the terrorists as if they are clowns. He says that people want to see only the tragedy. It comes from the will to hold on to what is tragic, but you cannot empty something if you do not show it as comedy. You cannot observe it without doing that. Why does he liken the terrorist to a clown? Because he is a parasite. That man does not produce any idea. When he is asked to think, he says it gives him a headache. The real target is actually the audience; they tend to react this way when asked to think. The playwright asks the question to them, he wants people to think about the reason of the banks being saved. The play says something and it expects the audience to think and figure it out.

Bira Fabrikasi - Moda Sahnesi
Bira Fabrikasi – Moda Sahnesi

In Bira Fabrikasi, we see a similar pattern to Lord of the Flies; a group of people establish their own hierarchy and take sides. They are all after money and the power that comes with it. What do you think beer represent, which becomes a tool in the play?

I will say what our director Kemal Aydogan says: First, beer is a beverage of the entertainment culture. Also, it is liquid, so it is a metaphor for something which can easily spread and control wherever it goes. It is not about the beer being an alcoholic beverage. Beer is a medium of entertainment culture. We need to look at it from an African’s point of view. Because of its liquid and therefore moving nature, beer is like evil, or money. Money is not heavy like gold, and you never truly own it. It travels all around the world and we follow it. The way we travel is not a physical one, though, because it is an abstract concept. Imagine a poster for this play, it would be beer flowing in the river, or it can run through the pipes. The whole world is covered with this liquid. And everyone is slaughtering each other to own the factory where it is produced.

What is the reason of Corporal Parasite’s survival, while all those soldiers with violent nicknames die?

I have imagined how other soldiers would be, but I have never thought about the reason of us staying alive while they were all dead, but it explains the reason at one point in the play: because they are the worst.

Which colour would your character be?

He would be either pale green or matt brown.

birafabrikası 3
Bira Fabrikasi – Moda Sahnesi

You can watch Bira Fabrikasi on stage in October.

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