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the year of cancer

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director luk perceval
from hugo claus
duration 1:45
premiere 26 Mar 2016

The year of cancer is one of director Luk Perceval’s favourite novels. The balance between big emotions and banality, between tense expectations and daily burdens forms the basis of his reading. ‘If you don’t go and watch this, you are denying yourself happiness.’ - NRC *****

The year of cancer (Het jaar van de kreeft) is about a troublesome relationship. The performance is a sequence of absurd, tragicomic and physically exhausting scenes between two desperate people who can neither live with nor without each other. Both lovers are caught in an inescapable spiral of intimacy and detachment, pride and devotion, life and death. A story without romance, about two people who experience love as a fate and a mission.

Claus’s novel is a rollercoaster. In short chapters, he draws a portrait of two people who can neither live with nor without each other. In provocative, moving and poetic scenes, we witness the distress caused by a great passion. Claus succeeds in turning a story that would have generated a very bad novel in the hands of lesser authors into an existential drama about angst and a drive towards death. Balancing between pathos and humour, he creates two unforgettable characters in a love story that makes sense in all ages.

For Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Luk Perceval adapted one of his favourite novels, The year of cancer. With this bestseller from 1972, Hugo Claus succeeded in writing a novel about love that comprises both the profound and the banale. In short chapters, he paints a portrait of two people who can neither live with nor without each other. What is it that brings two people together when nothing seems to make sense?

Perceval stripped the book of its Amsterdam and early-1970s context. Only the very core remained: a woman who can’t commit because the realization of decay hangs around her life like a veil. A man who can’t save her because he unjustly interprets her cry for love as a rejection.

In a physically exhausting performance, Maria Kraakman and Gijs Scholten van Aschat play and dance the ecstasy of being in love, as well as the defensive fights after the breakup. The forced nature of the relationship echoes in the piano music, composed and performed live by Jeroen van Veen. It propels the two lovers in a danse macabre towards the conclusion, where neither of them is willing to definitively herald the end.

‘The depiction of attraction and explorative erotic actions between this man and woman during the opening scenes is wondrously beautiful. From that moment, you know that The year of the cancer, the stage adaptation of the novel by Hugo Claus, will be a treat. Light as a feather, striking and fluent, in the steady hands of director Luk Perceval. He has an idea, a daring idea: not to imitate, but to transform; to honour the spirit, the soul of the work of another genius by replacing words with the beauty of the body. That operation has been perfectly successful.’ - NRC *****

‘Maria Kraakman and Gijs Scholten van Aschat have succeeded in mastering this different, excessively physical style of acting. They draw you along in their raw, intense, but above all vulnerable game of attraction and rejection. In addition, there is a magnificent friction between their destructive behaviour and the soft, sweet melodies by pianist Jeroen van Veen.’ - de Telegraaf

'It is fascinating to see two of the best Dutch text performers dive into their roles in such a shamelessly physical way. Especially Kraakman does a phenomenal job portraying a confused, layered and elusive character that we can certainly understand emotionally. Her lover has to keep up with her quicksilver body and emotions, but turns out not to be able to. This results in one of the most beautiful images during the entire performance: he is clumsily trying to inflate a broken sex doll, while she is madly riding around in circles on a children’s bicycle to get his attention. An image with a meaning you can’t quite express in words, but you can almost physically feel it pull on your heartstrings.’ - Trouw ****

‘Perceval challenged his actors to a kind of theatrical athletics. Gijs Scholten van Aschat and Maria Kraakman are pulling out all the stops when it comes to their great acting talent. They show the very best of themselves.’De Groene Amsterdammer

‘An unsurpassed idea, to capture this book in a danse macabre.’De Volkskrant

Luk Perceval about The year of cancer

‘The year of cancer is a ruthless book. Ruthless because it shows love in its impermanence. The story shows how, after the first delight, love soon turns into false expectations and unbearable disillusionment. In the theatre adaptation, the break between expectation and reality in love is the focal point.

What I find interesting is the vague border between delusion and reality, love as an addiction and as self-deception. Or like James Joyce put it: Love loves to love love.’



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