Charles de Gaulle Airport: The Camp as Neoliberal Containment Site in Two Trojan Women Adaptations


Phillip Zapkin


Theatre, and particularly theatrical adaptation, offers a mode of resistance to neoliberal anti-democratic privatization by appealing to a common performative culture. Femi Osofisan’s 2004 play Women of Owu and Christine Evans’ 2010 Trojan Barbie both adapt Euripides’ Trojan Women to protest neoliberal quarantining of the dispossessed. These plays reflect the Euripides hypotext and simultaneously carry resonances of an Attic performance context rooted in the shared civic collective of the democratic Athenian polis. Osofisan sets his version after the 1821 conquest of Owu, in modern day Nigeria, but the play’s language is laced with satirical references to the Iraq Invasion. A Bush-and-Blair rhetoric of liberation and freedom contrasts the violence and enslavement of Owu survivors. Evans focuses more broadly on dispossession, foregrounding philosophical discussions of deprivation and liminal statelessness. In adapting Euripides’ anti-war tragedy, the contemporary dramatists locate our economic and martial moment alongside a classical condemnation of exploitation, deprivation, and enslavement, thereby raising questions about the “freedom” so often promised by neoliberals. Each play’s mise-en-scéne makes abundant the devastation of dispossession. The ruined village of Osofisan’s play and Evans’ refugee camp visually echo enclosures throughout nations under neoliberal hegemony. The women’s enslavement makes clear the stakes neoliberal governments and corporations see for quarantining the impoverished and the oppressed. Simultaneously, however, both playwrights locate possibilities for resistance to militaristic and imperialistic capitalism in performance itself, suggesting that performance offers a means to maintain one’s cultural identity in the face of dispossession, and to establish cosmopolitan empathy through hybridizing performance.

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