Rau’s works are artistic reenactments of historical events and trials, just as we will see this month in 20th Istanbul Theatre Festival, when Hate Radio comes on the Zorlu PSM stage and theatre. This is perhaps Rau’s most charged and controversial work whereby Hate Radio reenacts Rwanda’s RTLM radio station, which played a significant role in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. It is Rau who wants to portray another aspect of one of the most shocking events of the 20th century, given the manner in which it happened and how the world stood by. We discover the director’s thoughts, from a standpoint of political activist and truth teller.

You are a political theatre director, where does this interest stem from?

There are a lot of reasons, biographical reasons; my parents were left wing activists and they taught me to confront the world in a political way. Second of all, I was working as a sociologist, and this reinforced this point of view and I started to travel from the age of seventeen and eighteen, to do reportage in South America, Africa, Russia and so on. I always tried to apply my artistic work on the same level as the global economy. Another reason is that I make theatre, in moments of conflict, in moments of war and crisis; lets say that the real vigour of humankind comes out.

So do you consider yourself a filmmaker or political activist first?

I mean my work for the theatre, film and I also work as a writer. Of course I am a political activist, but when I am doing my work, such as Hate Radio, then I try not to do it as an activist. Yes I am against genocide, but you cannot do a play or an artwork about something when you are against a political situation. In the work itself, perhaps in a cynical way, I try to be impartial. I try to describe the situation as it was. How can you understand how these people committed genocide if you don’t describe why these acts were carried out?

Why did you choose to focus on the Rwandan Genocide, in Hate Radio? What is it about the Genocide that resonated with your personal beliefs?

I was always interested in understanding how something like this could happen. This was a conflict where more or less eight million people, perpetrators and victims, were all involved, so I was interested in how you could describe this situation on stage in a different way, so you can really understand the atmosphere of this conflict. The point of connection is with my actors, who survived the genocide and perpetrators.

What was your experience on a personal level to work with actors who lived through this genocide?

There was one actor who had confronted the genocide for the first time; exploring these memories and history of your people, you find for a long time that you go around this experience and continue through life because it happened and you cannot change it anymore. And for one of the actresses it was the first time she came back to Rwanda to confront one of these huge monsters in history, and it was very absurd and surreal for her to play this role.

Do you think using actors, who had experienced the genocide, give Hate Radio a stronger voice?

I think the context of the play and working with actors who know what they are talking about due to their experience is very important for my work in general. For example when you are doing a play about Shakespeare, the actors can’t know more than what Shakespeare wrote, because it had happened 500 years ago. They can’t be more clever than Shakespeare, but they can be more clever than Milo Rau, because with me they are playing their own history. Here, it is a mix of archive and biography when speaking of the actors.

Were you satisfied with the reception of Hate Radio and The Congo Tribunal?

The reaction of the public and media is not in my hands, but in another way the play can re-create the political space, which is really confronting. What you think you know best, it is not real until you confront it. For example in Hate Radio, we are representing the genocide and there are not a lot of subjects that do this. Yes, it was represented as a part of the globalised news culture in the 90s, but I think theatre makes it possible to change the perspective on something that is extremely popular in media which was never taken from that point of view.

Are you looking forward to presenting Hate Radio in Istanbul? What response are you hoping to receive?

Difficult to say. I went to Japan two years ago with Hate Radio, and I was not expecting that much interest as it was a colonial story of taking African etc. This could be the same thing for Turkey. You have never really colonised in the modern sense – but then genocide is such a universal thing. Every culture has experienced some form of its own genocide and of course in Turkey there was the Armenian genocide, whereas the Japanese killed millions in China during WWII. This point of excluding a minority and killing them, I think this could be the point of entrance for the Turkish public.

Photography: Daniel Seiffer