[Wiener Festwochen.]

Mission is a play written by David Van Reybrouck, directed by Raven Ruëll and starring Bruno Vanden Broecke.

Bruno Vanden Broecke plays an old missionary who has spent the past 50 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On one of his rare home leaves, he gives a talk about his work and his life and his belief. It’s that talk that we see.

Mission is amazing. Bruno Vanden Broecke’s performance and David Van Reybrouck’s text make for an explosive mixture and Raven Ruëll knows that he best let the audience focus entirely on these two things. The result is an intelligent, complex discussion of a difficult topic that is above all engaging.

I have to admit that it took me a bit to get into the whole thing. In the beginning what the missionary tells us is quite trite, the usual things you expect, the alienation with the European culture etc etc. And Bruno Vanden Broecke is so covincing in the role that despite knowing better and him being actually half the age of the missionary he portrays (which took a bit of getting used to as well), you keep asking yourself if that wasn’t for real. If they’d really sent us a missionary to talk to us. Which is kinda creepy but only goes to show how incredibly realistic this play and Bruno Vanden Broecke were.

But after about half an hour or so, you discover the first chinks in the armour made of stereotypes: there are doubts. There are contentions the missionary has with the church. The job is frustrating. Reality has very little to do with belief and a lot with humanitarian work. There’s war and atrocities. And David Van Reybrouck – who has interviewed quite a few missionaries himself – nails it. He nails the pacing, he nails the progression from routine talk to confession. And in the end, you’re about as torn apart as the missionary himself.

You wouldn’t think that an almost two hour monologue (which, btw, Bruno Vanden Broecke even did entirely in German, which is really cool) could be that gripping. But it is and it’s just wow.

Summarising: If you’re even slightly interested in the topic, it’s a must-see.

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