Jean-Paul Sartre, the famous existentialist philosopher wrote so many plays. On eleventh of March, we went to see one of them, named “La Putain Respecteuse” which was presented by the students of Bilkent Performing Arts in Turkish. Fortunately, the play was put on the stage in our campus, so we didn’t need to go far away. To be honest, if we had known that it would be presented in such a successful and effective way, we would definitely go to see it regardless without thinking its place.
The play was first presented in 1946 in France. After it was translated by the famous Turkish poet, Orhan Veli Kanık, it was performed in Turkey, in 1950. Since that day, the audience in Turkey have had chance to watch this play in various theatre stages. The one, which is in Bilkent is directed by Musa Arslanalı. The lead roles are performed by Zeynep Koltuk, Haluk Kaya, Baran Can Eraslan and Tansel Aytekin. The theatre hall is relatively small compared to other halls in Ankara. For this reason the auditoriums is small too and so close to the stage. As for the stage, it is decorated like a bed room. There is a messy, white bed at the left which seems that someone slept on it last night. At the centre in the room, there’s a coffee table and at the back, there’s a chest of drawers with a mirror. A woman, later, whom we learn that her name is Lizzie, tidies up the room while singing. The performance begins with that.
At the back of the stage, there’s a section opening to a bathroom where a man is taking a shower and there’s a door at the right back. Someone heavily bangs at the door. Later we learn that he is a black person who runs away the cops and he wants Lizzie to hide him. The truth is that, Lizzie is more inclined the story than it seems. The night before, that black person, Lizzie and some other guys were in the train. The whites was abusing Lizzie verbally and disturbing her. Trying to save her, two blacks discussed with the whites and there came out a fight. One of the blacks was shot by the whites. Because the other was accepted as equally dangerous, he needed to be captured and sentenced to death. The heart of the matter is that, the person who killed the black was Senator’s nephew. Senator’s son found Lizzie and slept with her. Then it becomes clear that, his true intention was to deceive her and make her verify the story saying that she was harassed by the blacks and this was why the whites needed to shoot one of them. Otherwise, Senator’s family name would be defamed by this guilt. The people in the city are already willing to accept that the black are always guilty. The play is totally based on this prejudgement and discrimination about the blacks.
Lizzie is a prostitute, who has just arrived the city to work. She believes that her fate is kind a sick, because wherever she goes, she gets into the hot water anyway. She’s an ignorant but a kind-hearted and honest woman. Senator’s son, Fred exploits her ignorance and feels free to make use of her bodily. From the very first acquaintance with Fred, we, as the audience sense that he’s quite a proud and arrogant man. After he slept with Lizzie, he always humiliates her. When he gives out his true intention, he threats her with death to sign the document verifying the story they made up. He shouts and even beats her. The play’s second theme is surely the violence and humiliation towards women. The excitement of the audience hits the top especially when she is beaten by Fred.
Lizzie is decisive about not signing the paper, because she makes a word to the black taking shelter in her home while running away the police. She knows the truth and sure that the black is pure innocent. The one and only guilt he has is being black. Lizzie pities her. Even after she is threaten and beaten by Fred and his white friends so many times, she doesn’t change her mind. This is the point when the audience makes the sense of the title of the play. Lizzie is really a respectable prostitute for she roots for the underdog. Violence is totally useless to change her mind. Then, Senator comes in and he tries to convince Lizzie with sweet talk. Here we meet so-called weakness and emotional nature of women. At least, she is convinced to sign the paper.
As it can be seen clearly, the main themes of the play are discrimination, gender issues and class difference. Sartre heavily criticizes the social and economic dynamics in the society. He honestly shows how black people are seen as inferior race and accepted as tended to commit crime. The society, discriminating the blacks also has stereotypes about women, mostly related to gender mainstreaming. Women are portrayed as weak to deceive and dishonourable through the play. The last theme, maybe the hard to detect is the class difference, I assume. The document proving that the blacks are guilty is prepared for saving the Senator’s nephew. As there is a colour difference between two races, there’s also a class difference as well. Senator’s struggle to convince Lizzie to make her sign the paper mostly is caused by the intention to save their family name and politic position.
All the messages are conveyed to the audience properly. Although the actors and actress are still students, they are nearly as perfect as Professional players. There’s a few sound and visual effects, but this doesn’t make the play dull, because the story takes place in one room from the beginning to the end. All the details are so real, there’s nothing illusionistic and symbolic. The white suits that the whites wear may symbolize their race and social positions in the play.
To be critical, the hall was so small and there was no ventilation system. Sometimes this made the audience distract, they didn’t concentrate on what’s going on the stage while trying to cool themselves. Apart from that, the play is performed in a really Professional way and remarkable words to say.