Catherine Zimdahl created a breathtaking piece of theatre with Clark in Sarajevo. Clark Cant (no apostrophe) is, unfortunately, no Superman in disguise. The ordinary and pitiful exterior is all there is to this reporter, although he might dream of doing something greater, which is what sends him off to Sarajevo to ‘cover’ the war.
Oh the arrogance of we in the West who descend on war-torn countries without doing our research, learning to speak the language, or bringing anything of value except for our belief that what we have to say is important. This is what struck me hardest reading this play.
Clark in Sarajevo is a brilliant piece of writing where the theatricality of the experience is placed clearly in the text. From the start with the introduction of a chorus, you’re aware that you’re reading something vibrant and vital. A play best performed by an ensemble of actors.
CHORUS: Clark Cant rises up. He is offered a helmet and a
bulletproof vest. He shakes his head.
(He takes out his pen)
CLARK: With my pen, my weapon, my wand
I am protected from all that is wrong.
CHORUS: Clark Cant steps out into sniper alley. One hundred and fifty metres from the front line.
He sees a sign.
(He gets out phrase book to read the sign.)
CLARK: Beware sniper.
(Gunshots like thunderclaps.)
CHORUS: But Clark Cant walks on.
Clark’s invincibility starts to wear thin as he meets and befriends some of the people living and working in Sarajevo. They see him as a talisman for protection, someone who might be able to get them out, or perhaps bring the UN to help them. They don’t realise that he is an innocent abroard, courting danger rather than staving it off.
LALA: Why is it that when you come from the West you only want to know about how many coats I have to wear to keep from frost bite or how do I choose the books to burn to stay warm?
LALA: the wolf is in the house our heads are in his mouth
and you really want to know where I dump my shit after I shat it?
Clark’s innocence can’t withstand the atrocities he witnesses and his mind breaks by the end of the play, but you still know that he can go home to a safe country and a warm bed. That he can put it all behind him, if he can just forget.
Clark in Sarajevo is a moving, provocative and beautiful piece of writing. Zimdahl isn’t afraid to tackle big issues but she does it theatrically so that there’s never a feeling of being lectured or hectored.
Unpublished but available through Australian Plays as a PDF.
Cast: 45 roles – can be played by 3M, 3F or by a larger cast.