French-based actors are in Saint Lucia to put on a play entitled ‘Comme L’ Oiseau’ (Like The Bird) that addresses the grave issue of drug mules.
The play will be on stage Saturday (October 14) at the National Cultural Centre from 7.00 p.m. and is being presented as a collaboration between the Alliance Française de Sainte-Lucie and the OTEP Theatre Company from French Guiana.
The play is free to the public and caters to persons aged 14 years and older.
The OTEP Theatre Company is well known for its dedication to poetry, creativity, and humanity.
The play is written by Berekia Yergeau and delivered in French with English subtitles to cater to a diverse audience.
According to the organsiers, the multi-generational cast skillfully narrates a family’s tragic downfall at the hands of the Guianese mafia network.
Speaking to St. Lucia Times, Bereika revealed that her multicultural background and upbringing evoked her passion for theatre arts and dramatic stage presentations.
She was born in Haiti, grew up in Canada, and attained Canadian citizenship before settling in French Guiana.
Bereika pursued studies in poetry and then plunged into writing and directing.
Her production of the play ‘Comme L’oiseau’ was triggered while undertaking research on a two-year documentary.
Initially, says Bereika: “I always write poetry …and then began studies to become a comedian, but I always write and finally chose to be an actor/director and a writer because this is what I’m passionate about.”
Bereika arrived in French Guiana in 2014, and she explained that her writing always focused on “actuality (reality) …but I feel that in a theatre piece there is the ‘Universe in a Play’ so you have to talk about everything, even if you only take (highlight) one subject.”
She continued, “I started doing a documentary about drug trafficking, and more precisely about ‘drug mules’. When I’m doing theatre I really feel that theatre is a place where my main obsession is to bring people over to people and to give back humanity to people.”
Bereika feels striving to preserve humanity is imperative in the ‘scheme of things’.
“To me, it’s the way for the reconciliation of people …to give them back their humanity,” she asserted. “Because is I don’t see you as a human, I won’t treat you with humanity. If I recognize you, I’m going to treat you well and treat you with a humanitarian touch. To me, it’s also a play to give back humanity to everybody.”
Commenting on the play – ‘Comme L’ Oiseau’, she says while undertaking the documentary, she was intrigued by the subject matter of ‘drug mules.’
In the process, she held social interventions and dialogue with respective family members.
She also visited prison inmates to ascertain “why are you doing that, how does it work and everything else”.
Bereika enthusiastically admits that she got good responses from the interviewees.
Regarding the production, she explained, “When I began …there were about 10 ‘drug mules’ per flight travelling from Cayenne to Paris.”
She said there are two scheduled flights per day on that route. In 2021, there were about 20 drug mules per flight, averaging about 40 per day.
Last year’s reports indicated about 30 mules per flight, averaging 60 daily.
She explained that drug trafficking also involves South America to Europe, and since Suriname is close, there are some flights from Suriname to Amsterdam.
Bereika said the drug trafficking trade also involved military personnel and teachers who ply that trade during their vacation time, sometimes without being suspected, and there are also “rich people” involved as well.
Speaking about the play, Bereika says she was astounded by the sacrifices people make for survival: “How we sacrifice our time, we sacrifice our health, and our mental health for money.”
She described the trend as a “clash of generations” involving young people since the youth have less adherence to religion or religious practices.
Expounding on the synopsis of the play, Bereika explained, “During the research I realized all of that so I decided to write a theatre piece where there are three characters, the mother, father and the young bird (daughter). The father is a bit older …and it entails some family-like situations whereby the father already has grown children from a previous relationship, and then decides to remake his life with a younger woman.”
She adds: “In the story, they all pursue three separate directions … three separate opinions (view-points) depicted clearly and they go through to the end of it, they don’t give up on anything. And this is the emotion that moves them to the end.”
Headline photo: Berekia Yergeau (right) with the cast and crew for the production of ‘Comme L’ Oiseau’