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Theater Review: Never ending cycles of violence?

"Déjà-vu – the Heart Remembers" by Las Kory Warmis 

The European premiere of "Déjà-vu – the Heart Remembers" by the Bolivian ensemble Las Kory Warmis, staged at the Adelante! Theater Festival in Heidelberg on February 7, 2024, proved to be a deeply affecting exploration of sexual and sexualized violence. From its opening moments, the performance gripped the audience with its raw intensity, earning a resounding standing ovation.

The narrative unfurls like a tightly wound coil, initially presenting a vision of hope as a bridal couple pledges themselves to a future of acceptance and freedom. Yet, this facade swiftly shatters, revealing the harsh reality that relationships disguising as “loving” are, in reality, often abusive. The audience is confronted with visceral scenes of violence happening behind closed doors—shattered objects, anguished cries, and a pervasive silence that speaks volumes. The piece employs a deft use of symbolism and evocative imagery, such as using fog to mark transitions from the reality of nightmares to dreams of a different reality. Powerful patriarchs, alcohol, and whip lashes create an oppressive atmosphere to which each woman on stage is subjected. At the same time, the production paints a haunting portrait of the yearning for a world untainted by brutality.

Central to the drama is the manipulation of a male ego uncapable of receiving criticism, which spirals into a labyrinth of blame and justification for violence against women. Scenes of domestic discord are rendered with chilling authenticity, underscored by the cacophony of breaking objects and the desperate pleas of the oppressed. The culmination of this cycle of abuse is an act of femicide. The femicide, directly followed by the perpetrator's own suicide, leaves behind a haunting silence, punctuated only by the overlooked plight of the now orphaned daughter.

The orphaned daughter now additionally faces the repercussions of her stepmother’s internalized misogynist behaviour towards her.

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The narrative further delves into the intersecting forces of oppression, from European post-colonialism to capitalism, each contributing to the systemic degradation of women. Elements of Christian symbolism and language are used to show how violence against women is embedded in a historical and cultural system. In addition to gender-based violence, scenes depicting class and race-based violence are also shown, thus demonstrating the complexity of structural violence in postcolonial societies. For example, some scenes show the precarious living conditions of mine workers and women in the region around Puna in the central Andes exemplify the effects of extractivism.

Emigration emerges as a bittersweet refuge, offering escape from one form of oppression only to confront another in the harsh realities of Europe's racial hierarchies and economic inequalities. Especially for women, ageism adds yet another layer of oppression and struggle. This is exemplified by portraying the silenced and isolated mother of some of the main characters whose children visit her for her birthday as a family duty, but make no effort to truly connect with her.

Amidst the bleakness, however, glimmers of hope emerge—moments of resistance against the suffocating grip of violence. Whether symbolized by a pink-clad figure protecting the orphaned daughter from the physical violence of her stepmother or embodied in the transformative power of theater itself, these instances offer a ray of light in an otherwise dark narrative.

In the post-performance dialogue, the real-world impact of the production is palpable, as one actress recounts the tangible changes wrought in her own life and relationship. At the beginning of the process, her husband had no interest in her dreams or in theater and she had to fight her way onto stage against her husband’s opposition. After seeing her performance, he congratulated her and dynamics in their everyday life and the distribution of household tasks changed.

It begs the question: can theater serve as a catalyst for social change, challenging entrenched systems of oppression and fostering empathy and understanding?

As Las Kory Warmis skillfully weaves together themes of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism, "Déjà-vu – the Heart Remembers" serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to confront and dismantle these structures of violence. In its unflinching portrayal of the human cost of systemic oppression, the production offers not only a critique of the status quo but also a glimmer of possibility for a more just and equitable future.


The Kory Warmis (Aymara: women of gold) is an independent, self-managed theater group from Bolivia created in 2015 in the city El Alto. The group is made up of women vendors and artisans, between the ages of 10 and 70, directed by Erika Andia. The members tell their own stories on stage and share them in an effort to break the endless circle of violence. The group with eight years of life has taken the theater out of the theater and has taken it where the people are, performing in towns, squares, courts, schools, barracks, parishes and neighbourhoods of Bolivia.