Cinc amics d’una banlieu de París es reuneixen una nit per cremar el cotxe d’algú molt ric. Des de fa uns dies, alguns incendis provocats apareguts en diversos indrets han destruït alguns vehicles. Els fills dels fills dels immigrants que van arribar sense res al país encara s’hi senten estrangers. Europa no els ofereix aquells valors que coronen la seva bandera. I els carrers i les notícies s’omplen d’un ambient que podria ser de revolució o de guerra, d’esperança o de desassossec. Un ambient que pot destruir il·lusions i amistats.
La Joven is an award-winning youth theatre company dedicated, among other things, to reflecting the actual cultural diversity of Spain on its stages. They team up with playwright Jordi Casanovas for the touring production Gazoline.
The play, directed by José Luis Arellano García, focuses on the fracturing friendship of five young residents of a Paris suburb in the context of the 2005 riots, in which youth of African, North African, and French heritage teamed up in violent attacks that included the burning of cars and public buildings. Fifteen years on, these events have led to little change in these areas in some of which over half of residents live below the poverty line.
The production that arcs through divisions in the group to its cohesion, centres on the decision to burn a car: not just any car, that of the French Minister of Interior. The reasons behind this are manifold: a means of protest, revenge, attention, excitement, the absence of icons and references that directly speak to this youth, as well as the inherited economic traumas of their families.
In constant play are the way things should be and the way things are: the system’s false promises and immoralities lead by example, and are perpetuated through and exploited by the group itself. There is something notable too in the gendered aspirations of its characters: Christine (Delia Seriche) wants to be famous, articulate Omar (Prince Ezeanyim) and clever André (Michael Batista) compete to provide hope through rhetoric, Eunice (María Elaidi) seeks attention through aggression yet conformity – and gets it, sweet-natured Naïm (Mard B. Ase) struggles with doing the right thing by everyone.
The key point about the production, though, is what we know in hindsight. Casanovas initially began the play in 2006 bringing it to the stage in 2017, as Trump took office. The ‘us or them’ division, a chasm so vast that it can’t be bridged beyond the dynamics of the niche group itself, has found its outlet in outrageous, dangerous figureheads.
When we talk of Facebook niches and voter manipulation that have led to rise of the violent right-wing, this is the youth that is being exploited, both as a source of support and paradoxically as the enemy. Blunt discourses promise inclusion and simultaneously deny it; with the same violent results.
It would be just as naive to ignore this group – that, with our rapidly depleting resources we are rapidly joining – as it would to call them ignorant: in Gazoline, in fact, we see empathy and democracy in action, as the friends articulate the options and alternatives and make the decision to support each other in the face of a hostile and corrupt system.