Elfriede Jelinek was inspired to write this play in 2012 by the occupation of the Viennese Votivkirche by a group of illegal immigrants who had been waiting months for the verdict on their right to stay in Austria. The holy law of the “temple asylum” did not stop them from being expelled from the church, and then from the country and from Europe. No one suspected at the time that, only a few years later, migration would become a major issue around Europe and, in many people’s opinion, would become a challenge to its very foundations. In our time a widespread (and even mandatory?) tactic would seem to be turning one’s back, and staunching the empathy and the responsibility for one’s neighbor that religion dictates. The creators of the play, which has been highly praised by both critics and audiences, suggest that we treat this “invasion of foreigners” as a chance to take a closer look at ourselves and the ideas we hold dear. To quote Jelinek, “They (these values) might also want to rise higher before they crush us.” Could this be a forecast of the end of the world as we know it, or a call to change our civilization and our spiritual outlook?
In ‘The Supplicants’ Jelinek puts European values to the test. The specters of refugees ironically repeat our clichés of peaceful coexistence. The enthusiastic shouts of “we want to!” confirm the desire to find a shared cultural footing – only to ask a second later if there really is enough room for all of us.
Witold Mrozek, Gazeta Wyborcza