“Pašović’s ‘Class Enemy’ is tour de force”
-Jonathan Mills, director of Edinburgh International Festival on BBC
“….Possibly the best play in a decade of my theatre reviewing…”
-The Flying Inkpot, Singapore
“Explosive kinetic energy”-The New York Times
✭✭✭✭✭ No. 1 Pick of The Year, The Flying Inkpot, Singapore
Best Play at Singapore Arts Festival 2008, Strait Times, Singapore
Best Contemporary Show, International Theatre Festival Kontakt 2009, Poland
In a decrepit schoolroom, a group of foul-mouthed high-school students conducts their own lessons as they await their teachers who do not ever come – that is the shortest summary for the exquisite play CLASS ENEMY written by Nigel Williams, a British playwright, and adapted by Haris Pašović. The original play, placed in the South London classroom in early 1980s, is transported to Sarajevo around 2007. The original cast of six high-school boys is transformed into seven characters – three girls and four boys. The free adaptation, while keeping the original spirit and main themes, is grounded in the new European reality at the beginning of the 21st century.
Teachers have abandoned these youngsters; their parents, social workers, society in general has left them alone too. The wait, they hope. They are desperate and violent. They vandalize, they curse, they threat. While waiting, they start conducting their own lessons. We witness their dramatic, poignant life stories painting a bleak picture of their family situations, society, politics and terror. They are underprivileged, yet gifted and eager to be recognized, acknowledged, confronted and taught about life. Their physical action is phenomenal, their energy rampant. School chairs and desks fly across the classroom, fights erupt each minute, while bullying is their way of life.
They are emotional, tender, and vulnerable. They are aggressive, arrogant and malicious. They contradict themselves fighting their inner demons. Often, they are overwhelmed by prejudices or illusions. One of them blindly blames another ethnicity for their situation, the other believes in some sort of winged teacher who will come and understand them even though they do not understand themselves. And they are humorous, great fun to watch. Two funny guys (Kitty and Cat) sing the hop-hop songs – the only language in which they can express themselves. The main bully (Iron) is relentless, driving the action often to the point of frenzy. The dangerous beauty (Cobra) defends the weak ones, carefully manicuring her nails and beating up the boys. The-ever-unnoticeable girl (Chick) turns into a revolt-leader. The lovable classroom clown (Kid) turns out to be a racist. The rebel who compulsively throws bricks at the shop windows (Sky) transforms into an artist. When deputy headmistress comes by chance to the classroom, in the dramatic departure from the original play – the tragedy unfolds.
What seems in the beginning as an ordinary day in a classroom full of an unbearable bunch of hooligans turns into disaster – emotional and frightening. It is a clarion for change. It is a rare play that deals with problems of (sub)urban youth in such a poignant way. It echoes William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” and makes us think of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”, but it is so recognizable from our neighbourhoods as well.
The artistic team of the “Class Enemy” has conducted a research in the secondary schools of Sarajevo and has come to shocking findings. The level of violence in school and general disillusionment among students and teachers are alarming. Students often come to school armed with knives, the police get involved, and rude behaviour during classes is a standard. The social picture is that of misery, the atmosphere of desperation and hopelessness is prevalent. For just a few months, we have recorded a number of cases of brutal violence in Sarajevo and small Bosnian towns. The case of a Bosnian teenager who recently opened fire in the shopping mall in Salt Lake City could easily fall in this category as well – since it is definitely related to the war trauma.
We are aware that this situation is not unique for Sarajevo. On daily basis, we read reports from other countries in the region as well as from the EU countries and the USA. We believe that similar cases on other continents are underreported.