Student directors’ work at the Hexagon

2013-06-04 00:00

THE haunting story of the real-life exorcism and death of Anneliese Michel provided the inspiration for the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Now, actor, writer and director Stallone Santino brings Michel’s tragic story to the stage in Rituale Romanum: The Strange Case of Anneliese, which can be seen at the Hexagon Studio Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus on Thursday and Friday.

Santino (Dream Boy, How Soon Is Now? and The Crucible) has created a psychological thriller based on the true story of Michel, a German Catholic, who was said to be possessed by demons and underwent an exorcism by Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt, according to the Vatican’s 1614 Rituale Romanum.

From 1975 to 1976, in a period of about 10 months, Michel underwent one or two four-hour sessions a week, during which the priests claimed they identified several demons, including Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain and Adolf Hitler. Michel died on July 1, 1976, at her home in Bavaria, from malnutrition and dehydration. After her death, the authorities charged Michel’s parents and the priests with negligent homicide. What makes this case so infamous is that many people believe Michel wasn’t possessed, but was suffering from a rare medical condition and that her life could have been saved. The play, which Santino describes as “part psychological thriller and part courtroom drama”, explores the horrific exorcisms performed on Michel and the court case, which became a battleground between religion and science.

The staging of Rituale Romanum is part of a double bill of post-graduate, student-directed plays at the Hexagon. Theatre goers can also see Eugène Ionesco’s masterpiece, The Bald Prima Donna, directed by Brenda-Lee Cele, who has given the play a twist by adaptating it to a more local setting.

This delightful absurdist play mirrors the ridiculousness of human interactions, as two couples, from different cultures, let us observe their relationships.

Its main characteristic is the breakdown of every form of communication, leaving the characters on a stage that becomes an empty reflection of their own vapidness.

The play stars Nompilo Jili and Ntsikelelo Mfingwana. The double bill starts at 6 pm on both June 6 and June 7, and tickets are R30 at the door.

• Rituale Romanum will also be staged in the St Andrews Hall at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown on June 27 at 4.30 pm, at 12.30 pm on June 28, at 5 pm on June 29, at 9 pm on June 30, at 12.30 pm on July 1 and July 2 and, at 8.30 pm on July 2. Tickets are R50. Bookings are at Computicket.

• arts@witness.co.za

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