Paul Mason’s take on French anarchist Louise Michel

MichelHelen Lewis at The New Statesman:

When the anarchist Louise Michel was tried by the French government after the collapse of the Paris Commune in May 1871, she ­demanded to be executed. “Since it seems that every heart that beats for freedom has no right to anything but a little lump of lead, I demand my share,” she told them. “If you are not cowards, kill me!”

The council of war refused and instead sent her to New Caledonia, an archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Her revolutionary fervour remained undimmed during her seven years there; she supported the local Kanak people in their rebellion against the French in 1878.

Michel’s imprisonment and exile are the subject of Paul Mason’s new play, Divine Chaos of Starry Things, whose title comes from Victor Hugo’s poem about her. Performed at the tiny White Bear Theatre, it has just six actors (four women playing French prisoners and two men playing Kanaks) and minimal scenery and staging. A few scraps of fabric underpin the narrative – the women remove their formal outerwear as time passes on the sweaty island and climb the hill every year to wave a red flag to the men in the next-door prison camp.

more here.