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opening night

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duration 2:20
premiere 26 Mar 2006


Opening Night portrays a theatre company during the hectic run-up to the opening night of a new play entitled The Second Wife. During the day, the actors rehearse some of the more difficult scenes and in the evenings they perform previews.


Opening Night begins on the evening of a preview and finishes three days later on opening night. Fragments from The Second Wife alternate with rehearsals, discus-sions, conflicts and personal conversations between the characters. Opening Night offers a unique look behind the scenes of a theatre company. But it is more than that. Myrtle Gordon, the company’s leading actress, has a problem. She is finding it hard to identify with the role she is playing; that of a woman past her prime desperately trying to hang on to her youth. Myrtle tries to incorporate hope into her role. Moreover, she is worried about being slapped on stage by her male co-star Maurice, who also happens to be her ex-husband. Although the slap is obviously make-believe, to Myrtle it only feels too real.

When she witnesses the death of a young fan shortly after giving her an autograph at the first preview, Myrtle starts to confuse real life with theatre. She cannot rid herself of the images of the accident and her role becomes associated with the death of Nancy, with whom she identifies. Myrtle regu-larly brings the girl back to life in her imagination: perhaps this way she will master her role in the play. But instead of being a blessing, Nancy gradually becomes a curse. Myrtle finds herself increasingly dependent on the dead girl. Her fellow-actors see her teetering on the brink of insanity. Myrtle can only see one way out: in a surge of her survival instinct she kills the image of her younger self.


‘A natural Cassavetes Woman, Theatricalized, Magnified and Multiplied.(…) I have never seen Mr. van Hove – who has taken stylized wrecking balls to a host of classic plays – make more purposeful or appropriate use of his anarchic skills. His subject, you see, is the porousness of the identities of those who act in and live by the theater.’ - New York Times

‘Van Hove’s adaptation is theatrically spectacular and beautifully performed.’ - The Australian

‘Opening Night is very much festival fare, offering a great opportunity for local audiences to see a pro-duction with international scale and scope.’ - Age

‘Opening Night is an exiting piece with a subplot of magic realism, good characterization, especially the leads, plenty going on at all times along with superb acting .’ - InPress Magazine

‘Die furiose Inszenierung von  Ivo van Hove verschmilzt Bühnenaktion und Live-Video auf so kluge, gelungene Weise, wie man es selten sieht. Und die briljanten Schauspieler machen die Backstage-Tragikomödie nach einem Film von John Cassavestes zum Theaterfest.’ - AZ

‘Talent and a great deal of courage; this is what it took to adapt Cassavetes’ script for the stage. (...) Ivo van Hove makes expert use of cinematic techniques to give his mise-en-scene more depth. (...) Ivo van Hove can easily withstand the comparison with Cassavetes. They both possess a certain sen-sitivity, which they portray in very different ways.’ - Le monde

‘What does this anxious and neurotic play, in which people annoy, hit, love and hate each other amidst a confusion of gestures, whispering and moaning, actually add to Cassavetes’ masterwork? Nothing. You couldn’t compare them even if you wanted to, which I certainly don’t.’ - Telerama

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