Toneelgroep Amsterdam asks questions about freedom and presents grand family epics.
Our society is under pressure. Our freedom seems to become increasingly impaired. Fear governs all. What does freedom mean nowadays? Is freedom an absolute condition for a meaningful existence? What do we do when others limit our freedom? Is one person’s freedom the enslavement of the other?
In season 16|17, Katie Mitchell, Maren E. Bjørseth and Ivo van Hove examine the quest and the urge for freedom. Simon Stone and Van Hove work on theatrical family epics. The focal point is the question whether family will still be the model for coexistence in the future. What binds these four visionary and distinctive directors – either new or internationally renowned – is that they are convinced that the theatre is the ultimate place to address matters that captivate our society.
Simon Stone, who is internationally renowned by now and in great demand as a guest director, has chosen to direct one production every season at TA during the coming years as a permanent director. After his radical adaptation of The wild duck, Stone allows himself to be inspired by Henrik Ibsen again and writes Ibsen house. ‘Ibsen’s work is permeated with a deep insight into families in times of crisis. About wounds that do not heal. About how we attempt to feel normal again after things have been far from normal for far too long,’ says Stone. The starting point for this large-scale production is the house built by the visionary architect Solness (Hans Kesting). In March, the world premiere of Stone’s production will take place in Amsterdam.
The most quirky of all British theatre and opera directors, Katie Mitchell, will direct her very first TA production in December. ‘I consistently focus my attention on female experience and perception. There aren’t many female directors and somebody has to do it. I feel like it is my responsibility,’ says Mitchell. It is therefore not surprising that she has chosen to direct Jean Genet’s The maids. Mitchell: ‘The play may be seventy years old, but politically very relevant if you consider how many women from poor countries are still performing unskilled labour for wealthy women from the European middle class.’ Katie Mitchell is no stranger to the Dutch audience. In 2015, she was ‘Brandstichter’ at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam.
Directing Emilia Galotti, the young Maren E. Bjørseth focuses on the class struggle avant la lettre. In January, Lessing’s political commentary on the ruling classes will be her second TA-2 production in collaboration with Toneelschuur Producties.
Ivo van Hove will be directing two productions. With The hidden force, he already successfully got rid of the image that had unjustly been stuck to Couperus: costume drama in The Hague. His second directing job of a story by Couperus, The things that pass, is based on the majestic family novel in which Couperus proves once again that he is far ahead of his time. The coproduction with Toneelhuis and the Ruhrtriënnale will premiere in September. With Janáček’s song cycle The diary of the one who disappeared – a coproduction with Muziektheater Transparant and De Munt – Van Hove introduces a new genre at TA. The company will expand its range with musical theatre and will continue to do so in the future. And Obsession, the international coproduction with the Barbican Centre, will premiere in April 2017 in London with a cast consisting of both English actors and TA actors. The role of Gino will be played by Jude Law, who has proved to be one of the most important actors of his generation with various exceptional roles in both theatre (Henry V, Hamlet, Anna Christie) and film (Sherlock, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Side Effects, Cold Mountain).
16|17 will be another international season for TA. The Fountainhead will go on a world tour to Paris, Seoul and Taipei. After Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris and London, Kings of war will visit the prestigious BAM New York. Apart from The Fountainhead, L’Odéon in Paris has also invited Simon Stone’s Medea. With Song from Far Away, TA will go to Ireland for the first time. The kindly ones will be performed in e.g. Girona and Rome and The hidden force will be performed in Barcelona and Moscow.
With La voix humaine, The glass menagerie, The maids and Husbands and wives, TA will do an elaborate tour of the Netherlands. The monologues The other voice (Ramsey Nasr) and Song from Far Away (Eelco Smits) will be performed exclusively in Amsterdam.
The things that pass, Van Hove’s second directing of Couperus
In The things that pass, we see how a family is haunted by a mysterious murder from the past. The old people bear the marks of remorse. Their long lives seem like a punishment. Like in The hidden force, Couperus shows he is far ahead of his time. He paints the portrait of a modern family that does not cohere, that does not offer any sense of security. The family members flee each other and are spread out to all the corners of the world. Couperus’s novel is therefore not only a portrait of a dismantled family, but also an extensive plea for a life that is unwilling to be restricted by social conventions.
Van Hove: ‘In Louis Couperus’s The Hague, it is impossible to follow your real desires, impossible to be yourself. It is a world of wandering men and women in a prison-like society. Couperus rouses us. This world needs to be changed!’
The coproduction with Toneelhuis and the Ruhrtriënnale will be created at the Ruhrtriënnale in September and will be performed in Antwerp in October and in Amsterdam from December onward. With Hans Kesting, Abke Haring, Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Maria Kraakman, Frieda Pittoors et al.
The maids, Katie Mitchell’s first directing at TA
Smashing up the classics is the ultimate specialty of the quirky Katie Mitchell. For her first time at TA, she will be directing Marieke Heebink and Chris Nietvelt in The maids by Genet. For years, sisters Claire and Solange have been housemaids of their ‘madame’. In her bedroom, they take turns pretending to be madame. Madame has gone to prison to visit her lover who has been convicted based on false anonymous letters, which were written by the maids. And now the two sisters want to kill their mistress. Will they be able to execute their plan?
Mitchell: ‘Even seventy years after the first performance in Paris, The maids is still a powerful play. I love the three strong female roles – which is rare in theatre – and the way it addresses matters such as acting and gender. For a director, it is a balancing act between psychological realism and poetic symbolism. You also have to find a way to display the thriller-like plot twists in the story. The play may be seventy years old, but politically very relevant if you consider how many women from poor countries are still performing unskilled labour for wealthy women from the European middle class.’
The maids will premiere in Amsterdam in December and will do a tour of the Netherlands.
Ibsen house, world premiere of Simon Stone’s new script and directing
After his stagings of a contemporary Medea and Woody Allen’s Husbands and wives, Simon Stone is writing and directing a grand family epic about the troublesome but inevitable coexistence of several generations under one roof. Stone: ‘The more I read Ibsen’s plays, the more I see that characters recur. Although they have different names, they bear the same features. Like they are cousins, sisters, daughters, sons of a single character, once imagined by Ibsen. The young, idealistic dreamer; the bankrupt industrialist, fighting for his legacy; the woman who is stronger than her husband, searching for meaning; the man who is haunted by his father’s actions throughout his life; the couple whose relationship falls apart into a chaos of sex, death and mutual accusation. In Ibsen house, I process this material into a story about different generations in one house. Ibsen’s work is permeated with a deep insight into families in times of crisis. About wounds that do not heal. It is about how we struggle to be able to go on. About how we attempt to feel normal again after things have been far from normal for far too long.’
The world premiere of Ibsen house will be in March and the production will be performed exclusively in Amsterdam. With Hans Kesting, Maria Kraakman, Aus Greidanus jr., Janni Goslinga, Bart Slegers et al.
Obsession with Jude Law, Halina Reijn, Gijs Scholten van Aschat and Robert de Hoog
‘It is extremely exciting to bring English actors, especially Jude Law, and actors from our ensemble together for the first time in this rugged play that has the power of an ancient tragedy’, says Ivo van Hove.
Obsession tells the story of Gino, an attractive vagabond and Giovanna, unhappily married to an older man. A passionate affair occurs between her and the vagabond. Together, they devise the plan to kill her husband. The chilling story consists of short and bold scenes that are exceptionally poetic and raw. It makes Obsession a powerful social drama. A ruthless view of the bottom of society.
Jude Law: ‘I’d heard great things about Ivo van Hove and when I saw A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic and then Antigone at the Barbican I knew he was someone I really wanted to have the opportunity to work with. And now I can’t wait to return to the Barbican, a venue I performed at 22 years ago with the Royal Shakespeare Company, to take on the role of Gino, immortalised in the 1943 classic Ossessione by Luchino Visconti, whose films I adore.’
The production is based on Luchino Visconti’s first feature film Ossessione (1943), which created the basis for Italian neorealism. Visconti based his scenario on The Postman Always Rings Twice, the classic crime novel by James M. Cain.
Emilia Galotti, new TA-2 directing by Maren E. Bjørseth
Emilia Galotti, a young bourgeois woman, is in love with count Appiani and wants to marry him. A marriage of love. But when Prince Gonzaga sees a painted portrait of her, he is infatuated. From his higher position in society, the prince claims to have a right to Emilia. By force, if necessary. Emilia is brought to the prince’s summer palace – for her own safety, or so she is told. There she is caught between the prince and her father. The former tries to win her and the latter is supposed to help her, but to no avail. In Emilia Galotti, Lessing cunningly denounces the tyranny of the ruling classes and the citizens’ lack of rights. But it is also the tragedy of freedom. Emilia is helplessly subjected to what others do to her.
Bjørseth: ‘Emilia Galotti is the most beautiful woman of the realm, a masterpiece of nature. But who is she really? I am fascinated by the woman as a symbol, as a person of power and a powerless object. The many sides of Emilia make her just as recognizable and complex today as she was back then.’
Two years ago, Maren E. Bjørseth successfully created A bride in the morning for TA-2, the platform for the development of directorial talent. Emilia Galotti is produced in collaboration with Toneelschuur Producties.
The diary of the one who disappeared, musical theatre production with Transparant
The diary of the one who disappeared is less well-known than the large operas by Janáček. Its power lies in the short, ruggedly poetic poems and its unique form: a series of 22 songs for tenor and piano, with three songs for a small choir of women and a mezzosoprano. Annelies Van Parys writes a coda to this touching love story. Van Hove directs top singers Ed Lyon and Silvia de La Muela, and TA actor Hugo Koolschijn in this coproduction with Muziektheater Transparant from Antwerp.
Reprises exclusively in Amsterdam
The monologues The other voice with Ramsey Nasr and Song from Far Away with Eelco Smits will be performed exclusively in Amsterdam, as will Ibsen house, Medea, Kings of war, The things that pass and The Fountainhead.
TA will also present four Wish you were here evenings with inspiring guest lecturers and scenes that have never been performed before, as well as the annual TA-junior production – Husbands & Wives jr. – made with and by young people.
With La voix humaine, The glass menagerie, The maids and Husbands and wives, TA will do an elaborate tour of the Netherlands.