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small souls

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duration 2:10
premiere 24 Sep 2017


For the third consecutive season, Ivo van Hove presents an adaptation of a novel by Louis Couperus. Like The hidden force and The things that pass, Small souls is a coproduction with the Ruhrtriënnale, where the play will premiere in September. All three plays will be performed in Amsterdam this season.


At the premiere of The hidden force and The things that pass at the Ruhrtriënnale in Germany, the German press placed Couperus in the same league as Thomas Mann. In his directing, Van Hove stays far away from the nostalgic period drama. He interprets Couperus ‘as someone whose works hit the nerves of the 21st century’.

In an extensive adaptation of The books of the small souls (1901-1903), we focus on a family that has seen better times. Various generations struggle to live together under one roof. Their large house is a haunted house, a madhouse and an infirmary all at once. All members of the family suffer in some way from trauma, disability and neurosis. They are ‘small souls’ bearing the burden of the choices they made long ago and which they are unable or unwilling to change.

They all cling to Addy, a young doctor. He is married to Mathilde: a healthy woman who is in all senses the opposite of her in-laws.  An outsider, who is tolerated reluctantly. The fact that Addy is more concerned about his family than about her puts their relationship under pressure. In this, they reflect the fate of Addy’s parents, who too are stuck in an unhappy marriage.

The situation seems hopeless. But hesitant attempts are made to escape the crisis. Will they succeed in openly discussing their disillusionments, desires and expectations? Will they gain a new vision on life?


Van Hove about Small souls

‘With Small souls, we will complete our triptych based on the works of Louis Couperus. Our ambition was to present Couperus as a contemporary. In 2015, we began with The hidden force, the focal point of which was the never-ending clash of cultures. Couperus ruthlessly describes how eastern and western culture are fundamentally irreconcilable, can’t approach each other further. In 2016, there was The things that pass, a symphony of doom about a family scattered all over the world. We situated it in an immense waiting room where escape is impossible, except through death. It was beautiful how Lot announces a new era at the end. We see this new era in Small souls, the closing piece of the trilogy. “Do we live here? I mean really live?,” Constance wonders. We see how a community of sick, tired, extinguished people in a gloomy house gradually find ways to heal. People  who take small steps trying to be happy, trying to live. Marietje, the sickest of all, concludes: “I feel a new, different life in me. There is an energy in me… I want to follow it, I must follow it.” It is like the start of the golden age.’

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