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The Screens

Jean Genet
Date Published
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The Screens was the last of Genet’s plays to be performed during his lifetime. Its subject is the Algerian War of Independence, and it is an intricately crafted, grandiose construction – beguiling and baffling in equal measure.

While the most openly political of Genet’s plays, the work is not revolutionary in intent. Rather, as the play progresses the radical direction of lighting and the use of folding canvases serve to segment and compartmentalise the drama, and in so doing they transform the extremities of war into a series of incantatory scenes, vital and ritualistic, that bring stability to an otherwise unbearable reality.

‘The greatness of [The Screens], in all its lurid and unremitting, often comic theatricality, is its deliberate and logical dismantling not just of French identity-France as empire, as power, as history-but of the very notion of identity itself.’ Edward Said, Grand Street


Jean Genet was born in Paris in 1910. An illegitimate child who never knew his parents, he was abandoned to the Public Assistance Authorities. He was ten when he was sent to a reformatory for stealing; thereafter he spent time in the prisons of nearly every country he visited in thirty years of prowling through the European underworld. With ten…

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