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Director Weyni Mengesha on new production Butcher

Wednesday, 04 November 2015 07:28

Justice and peace – is it possible to have both?

This very question brought award-winning Ethiopian-Canadian director Weyni Mengesha to her latest production, Butcher, which is receiving rave reviews.

Butcher is a drama-thriller about justice, peace and revenge, with plenty of twists and turns that will leave you surprised and wondering long after it’s over.

The play is set at a police station on Christmas Eve. A man in a Santa hat and a general’s uniform has mysteriously arrived. He does not speak any English. As Butcher unfolds, we discover that the man has fled a country where he was involved in horrible war crimes committed a long time ago.

Weyni believes it is difficult to have peace without justice, and vice versa, especially in the context in which Butcher resides. The characters are all survivors of the same longstanding conflict, a genocide, but fall on different sides.

Weyni has a very intimate connection to the question of whether peace can exist with justice, and it stems from her Ethiopian heritage:

Weyni is a descendant of the former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1974, during the Ethiopian Revolution.

He died in 1975. Shortly after, thousands of Ethiopians were killed in the Red Terror, a violent political campaign led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is now living in exile in Zimbabwe.

To really understand the parallels between Weyni’s past and Butcher, it is best to see the play for yourself. Both, however, address similar themes, which have been discussed here, such as revenge, justice and peace. 

Butcher is set in Toronto, which Weyni believes is important, given the diversity of its people and their experiences. We don’t often know, however, the stories of the people that make up the city. Butcher is an attempt at that missing dialogue, a close-up look at people affected by war back at home and still live with its effects here in Canada:

Weyni Mengesha, bridging the gap of experience and understanding, with Butcher. The play is on now at the Theatre Centre and runs until November 14th.

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