/ Stage Arts / The Last European
THE LAST EUROPEAN
- a terror musical - 2005-?
Das Beckwerk - the reactor in Buddinge - February-March-November 2005
Baltic Circle theatre festival, Helsinki, Finland, November 2005
Wiener Festwochen/Vienna Festival Week, Austria, June 2007
Written and composed by: Claus Beck-Nielsen (1963-2001)
Soundscapes and musical production by: Mads Ljungdahl
Set-design by: Maja Ravn
Picture and video compositions by: Anders Elberling
Lightning by: Carina Persson
Dramaturgy by: Ib Tunby Gulbrandsen
On stage & videos:
The last European: Nielsen
Stage workers: Allan Mortensen & Christian
ABOUT THE LAST EUROPEAN:
The last European came about through a unique collaboration with the new Iraqi Hollywood - the fundamentalist film-studios in Falluja. After months of preparations Das Beckværk opened the last chapter in the history of Europe:
In front of a camera somewhere in Iraq the Englishman Ken Bigley is begging for help. In front of an audience somewhere in Northern Europe another European is telling his love story. "I think this is possibly my last chance to speak to someone who will listen from Europe", Ken Bigley says. "I would like to play you a love song", Nielsen says.
Both the Europeans are asking for our attention, our compassion, our help!
One of the two men is about to lose his head.
Why don't we do something to save him, why don't we act?
Just 100 years ago, in the era of the European Empire, we were the ones to set the world order. Now, in the new world order - set by fundamentalists in the Middle East and the U.S. - we are lost in the in-between, unable to act, just watching, loosing our heads while world History takes off without us.
The last European is an attempt on doing the impossible: Bringing together in one scene the personal spleen of the love- and life-sick little European, with the terror of the world scene.
It is the moral, ethical and aesthetical contest between the world known tragedy of Ken Bigley, one of the hostages decapitated by Iraqi fundamentalists, and the all-too-private tragedy of Claus Beck-Nielsens life and love.
It all begins as a traditional singer/songwriter concert: On the stage is a man and his guitar. The man wants to tell us his story, and to play us his songs. He starts by asking for the audiences mutual compassion, which is the basic need and quality in all scenic art.
And on it goes: stories and songs, the life and love of a normal man, a little European. But suddenly he is interrupted. Another European appears on the TV-monitor: Ken Bigley, one of the growing numbers of Europeans being taken as hostages by fundamentalist-Muslims in the area around Falluja, video-filmed and thrown into the Internet with their pleads for help.
The nine-minute video of Ken Bigley pleading his European people for compassion, action and help, is in many ways the final scene in European History: The lonely individual trying to connect to the world, to establish a real, interactive connection, but with no result.
The relation between Ken Bigley and the viewers, the audience, is a sign of our (European) time: A human being pleading us to help, to act, but we just watch, unable and unwilling (?!) to act. The last European is an attempt to radicalize this problem, and through the radicalisation maybe get closer to an answer, a new way for the individual to act on the world scene.
The audience plays the role as the contemporary Europeans: About 100 years ago, it was still the time of the great European Empires. We were the ones to decide who should be democratized, and who should be colonized. Now we have been reduced to spectators to the events on the present world scene. We are not Americans, nor are we Muslims, we don't really believe in anything, our major quality is not a weapon: It is doubt, reflection, nuances...
The question we ask the man on stage and his audience is: What can we do? Which is the role for the European to play on the world scene now and in the future? Who the hell are we?
A text on The Last European
Solveig Gade and Laura Luise Schultz, PhD scholars
The Last European - a terror musical
"All is well" Nielsen sings to his little daughter, while Ken Bigley is chanting his "Help me, please help me" from the TV in the corner. In the terror-musical The Last European Claus Beck-Nielsen (CBN) almost unnoticeably combines the small and the great story in a network where one Europeans personal history about loss of love is connected with events taking place on the world stage. Can you turn off your TV and your conscience while hostages from all over the world pleads for help in the Iraqi version of reality-TV? Can you shut yourself away form the world with your family, or lack of the equivalent? And how can you act responsibly in a world where pictures of the Twin Towers collapsing are shown with a soundtrack much like the climax of a Hollywood disaster movie? In The Last European CBN makes the audience go silent, while insisting that each individual must face these questions. All this in the frame of a small intimate stage where he, dressed only in an orange Guantanamo suit and a guitar, welcomes us to his singer/songwriter performance. The performance is accompanied by a visual diversity, from private childhood recordings to TV clips from the rise and fall of western civilisation, shown on the moveable stage screens.
What characterizes Claus Beck-Nielsens work is that it covers different genres and forms of expression. During the last 10 years he has through media-borne actions, performances, dramatic and literary works, made a hybrid, multimedia artwork that seeks to show the conflicts and coherences between the individual everyday life, and the reality of "big politics". The radicalism of his artwork is unique because CBN often throws his own person into the media-borne actions by taking on different social identities. Through this strategy, he makes visible the framework and the conditions for social and political agency in the western democratic welfare societies. He has done so by walking the streets of Copenhagen as a homeless, and by entering Iraq with the democracy in a metal box in what he himself called a parallel action to the American invasion. He involves responsible authorities from embassies, the police to social workers, and through the actions/happenings themselves, as well as in novels and dramas; he exposes the reality of governmental procedures and power. In short, what unites the lost individual soul and the politically engaged world citizen, is Claus Beck-Nielsens radical investigation of what happens in a situation where political, social and psychological structures are dissolved, redefined and neglected: What happens when reality is up for negotiation?
The Last European is an example on how he succeeds in melting the individual and world stage into one - beautifully shown in the final scene where CBN is hanging from the loft like an airplane with blinking lights, one red and one white, placed at the ends of his stretched arms. It is simple, clear and very moving.