‘They will soon forget me’. It is with these words that Michel, the main character in Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform, staged by Johan Simons in 2005, brings the story to a close. Michel’s words sum up a world view. Western civilization is limping along on its last legs, an era has passed and with it all the chances of future happiness. The question is: what now?
Submission, Houellebecq’s latest novel, provides an answer. In its fictional future, the chaotic, neoliberal world of Platform has given way to a new order. France is ruled by the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood and the new government provides a stable social climate. The price is the curtailment of several freedoms, the subjugation of women and the rejection of the values of the Enlightenment. The main character, François, is only too happy to submit to the belief that is imposed on him. ‘It would be the chance of a second life that had little to do with the first.’ Plagued by a defeatist view of Western society and his own life, François is hoping for a new chance at happiness. Also in love.
Platform is co-directed by Johan Simons and Chokri Ben Chikha of Action Zoo Humain in Ghent. This collective is made up of performers and researchers from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. AZH examines the super-diversity and image of ethnic minorities in the Western world. The starting point for this collaboration between NTGent and AZH is a two-parter. Johan Simons’ production of Platform will be restaged with a new cast who will also perform in Submission. The two performances can be viewed separately or as two parts of a whole.