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2007: "les Rituels barbares"

A Collectif barbare / Schlachthaus Theater Bern / the Tuchlaube Theater Aarau / Rote Fabrik Zurich co-production

A musical theater based on the crime of the Papin sisters.

The crime on which this play is based is typical of a time when servants were considered only in terms of the use they could be put to. Young girls were often brought up in nunneries and trained to become true household "pearls", when they did not come from well-to-do families. Few other life prospects were open to them. The tragedy of the Papin sisters is the perfect illustration of a total confinement where a life of habits and reflexes reigns, that serve to fill a life devoid of meaning. The connection with reality crumbles, minds go astray, emptiness sets in. The container takes the place of content, the meanings of actions and words are diluted in brains ravaged by ignorance. Unaware, we slide into nothingness: fertile ground for when the worst arrives — unwittingly, unknowingly, unnoticed.

With: Claire Valat, Astride Schlaefli








The Papin sisters

On February 2, 1933, in the city of Le Mans, the police forced entry into Mr. Lancelin's home. On the first floor, they discovered Mrs. Lancelin and her daughter, both murdered. Their bodies were horribly mutilated, their eyes gouged out of their sockets.

On the 2nd floor, clinging to each other and hiding at the bottom of their beds, the two "model" servants confessed swiftly to having committed the heinous crime against their bosses, bosses they maintain are "irreproachable".

The culprits are thus identified, their confessions unambiguous, the weapons of the crime obvious, displayed in full view. Everything seems straightforward and the case is closed. Indeed, what more could one ask for?

After a few months of botched investigation, Christine Papin was found guilty of the double murder while Léa was convicted of complicity. It was more important to conclude quickly than to examine the girls’ motives. No one, with the notable exception of intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre and Jean Genet, sought to find out what could have led the two sisters to this end.

Christine Papin died in 1937 in a psychiatric hospital, victim of a serious mental illness deliberately ignored at the time of the trial. Her sister Léa, sentenced to ten years of hard labour, was released in 1943. She continued to live a few kilometres from Le Mans, working as a nanny for the rest of her life. She died in 2001.