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Arts & Culture

As Happy As God In France

Hannah_Arendt_1924-_wikicommons

ABOUT AS HAPPY AS GOD IN FRANCE

‘As Happy As God In France’ is a new play which reveals an unknown women’s war history; a meeting between Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Salomon, and Eva Daube in the French camp of Gurs in 1940. The product of extensive research and development, this play translates hard facts into artistic creation whilst illuminating a new historical narrative of women’s war experiences.

Following a successful application made to the Arts & Humanities Research Institute's REACH Space Pop-Up Research Fund, Dr. Julia Pascal developed a series of four workshops in early 2020. These workshops entailed the reading of scenes of the play with five actors. The performers were instrumental in discussing how a major historical work could be staged with only five actors.

During the workshops, the actors experimented with the text in such a way that enabled creative discussions about theatrical style. This allowed Julia to rewrite specific scenes to sharpen dramatic focus and experiment with how to express brutality in a non-naturalistic way. The sessions provoked edits and amendments to the script which led to the text of the play being completed in July 2020.

THE COMPLETED PLAY 

The title refers to a joyous Yiddish invented in post-Revolutionary France by Jews, in celebration of their new status as equal people. It is used as the title ironically, as the play explores French antisemitism.

The subject of this drama is a fictitious meeting between Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Salomon, and Eva Daube in the Gurs internment camp. Each of these three women’s detainment in Gurs can historically be traced. Whilst two other characters; Agathe Blumenfeld and Trude Gottlieb were created from historical research. Gurs was one of the multiple camps along the Spanish border where 8,000 asylum-seeking German Jewish women were deported to. Through the perspectives of these three women, this play's action focuses on determining whether to stay and hope for salvation or to escape into a dangerous landscape. Explored in the play are themes inclusive of Jewish abandonment, art, sex, love, politics, rebellion, survival, suicide, and escape.

PROJECT OUTCOMES

Unfortunately, the showing of a major scene was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the play has since been selected for the New York theatre group Cimientos and is to have a reading through them in June 2021.

Dr. Julia Pascal was also invited to create a podcast with Professor Jennifer Munday of the International Centre for Women Playwrights. As part of the podcast, Dr. Pascal read a monologue that she had written for Hannah Arendt's character.

Project status: Ongoing

Funding

  • Funding body: King's College London and Affiliates
  • Amount: £1000
  • Period: January 2020 - June 2020