Spectators at an opera festival in France this week watched in disbelief as experts pulled dozens of corpses one after the other from a pile of mud on stage.
The scene, reminiscent of mass graves in war-torn Ukraine, was too much for some to bear, and at least one woman had to be carried away.
Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci was both applauded and booed for his latest performance at the Aix-en-Provence Festival of Lyrical Art on Monday.
The artist, who is known to be experimental, says he had planned “Resurrection” long before Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour in late February.
But it “has the singular misfortune of containing images that seem to directly evoke the mass graves of Bucha, the mass graves of Mariupol,” he said, referring to the Kyiv suburb and southern Ukrainian city ravaged by Russian forces.
At the start of his latest work, a real white horse wanders onto stage, sniffing at its muddy surface, oblivious to the some 1,500 people watching.
When his owner turns up to find him, he makes the grim discovery of the remains of a human body.
Vans soon pull up off stage, bearing the sign of the UN refugee agency.
Dressed in white overalls, masks and gloves, experts for more than an hour then work to pull out more than a hundred fake corpses, including those of children and foetuses, as well as shreds of clothing.
Audience members can smell the earth as an orchestra performs Romantic composer Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Number 2, also known as his “Resurrection Symphony”, in the background.
The only action comes towards the end, when one of the experts, visibly shaken, frantically continues to dig at the earth — even after all the bodies have been taken away.