AUSGANGSPUNKTE FÜR DIE INSZENIERUNG (nur auf Englisch)
David Prins / Mittowch, 2. Mai, 2012
Woody Allen's play is situated in the (Jewish circles) of New York. He wrote it in the 1960's for locals of that time. Some aspects of his text get lost for a contemporary Dutch audience, because it evokes no, or other associations. For example:
'Our' audience cannot understand the Yiddish elements in the English text.
References to typical American brands or (Fresca, Bickford’s) don't evoke an ‘image’ or an ‘atmosphere’ .
The game Gin Rummy is not well known to us, we rather play poker or Rummikub.
Jost's music interprets Allen's text. The fact that Jost's characters sing, is - especially for a text by Woody Allen - a serious intervention. Allen often seems to let his characters chat endlessly, but under that nervous flood of words an undercurrent of lonelyness and impotence becomes tangible. Because the music slows down the text and the words are being pronounced more ém-phá-tíc, they loose that typical 'Allen-brilliance'. But even more drastic is, that the fúnction of all these words: to conceal or defuse an existential panic, is neutralized. It is crucial to analyse the consequences of Jost's interventions/additions to find the right guidelines for our visualization.
The theme is death struggle. The form of representation is comedy. Man fights Death to gain a longer life. An allegory. Death against a mortal. Two worlds - the 'here and now' and the realm of Death - collide when Death stumbles into the world of the living. The mortal doesn't want to surrender just like that and tries to control his own destiny. He challenges Death; he seduces and deceives him.
We neither try to restore the 'Allen-timbre' that got lost in the music, nor do we attempt to reconstruct the New York atmosphere of the mid-1960's; we now live in another place, another time. Jost removed the Jewish-American accent from the text. We will not 'reconstruct' a Jewish element by means of visual additions, because it is not essential for Jost's version. We will transform the theatricality of the musical structures in (stage) design. We will make use of the features of comedy, in acting style as well as in staging. The performance can be considered as a theatrical narration. Both protagonists and audience are fully alive that we deal with an acted out story. The man and Death - hís personal Death - are complementary: Death as the man's reflection, maybe even the man's projection. If the man succeeds to get suspension from Death, he might be able to really be alive (maybe even for the first time?). The man chooses his favorite music (Artie Shaw's 'Concerto for clarinet') to celebrate his victory. When the music is over, he will die - no human being beats Death in the end.
Death Knocks im Theater de Veluvine, Nunspeet.
The auditorium is the stage, the grandstand the set. There we see a man, a dress manufacturer, seated in a sea of empty chairs. Where are the others? Were they already taken or aren't they born yet. Shouldn't wé - the audience - sit over there? The audience is seated on the actual stage, looking up to the nearly empty grandstand. Death enters the space of the living and has problems to make his way to his 'prey'. The rows of seats are obstacles that make it hard for Death to approach the man directly.
It's evident that both roles – man and Death – are stage characters: the man is an old clown, Death his alter ego. Death will eventually take the man to the Beyond, but not before the man has celebrated his extra time with a little dance with Death, a danse macabre maybe, but one which Death danced to hís tune. The clown suit of the man has long coat tails: two long strips of fabric, each rolled up on carton rolls, which he keeps pressed under his arms. He will finally be no longer able to hold them: they unroll and Death will tenderly 'mummifie' the man in the tails of his coat. Death – sung by a soprano – will be performed as a male character (Hosenrolle). The Death-character can be considered as the man's projection. Likewise, the Clarinettist can be considered as the man's projection: Death as the Death he's dreaming of, the Clarinettist as the Life he's dreaming of. All figures are dressed in an excessive and exuberant manner.
The props will clearly be 'stage requirements'. They may differ from the realistic objects they represent in material, colour or design. The card game for instance will not be played in a realistic way, but will express and symbolize the struggle for life and death. In that respect the cards represent the weapons for that trial of strength.
The light will turn the auditorium (the grandstand) into a theatrical space. The profit of the extra day which the man purloined from Death will be visualized in the course of the clarinet concert and will be accompanied with appropriate lighting.
Lichtentwurf für de Theaterloods, Radio Kootwijk.