Tragedies Romaines

On a whim, after reading a rave review, we booked tickets to one of three performances, made a hotel reservation and hopped on the train to Montreal. After all, who would not jump at the chance to see all three of Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies (Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra) performed non stop. In Dutch with French and English Surtitles!
Thank heavens we jumped! A truly stunning performance that took six hours, and was just amazing. No long intermissions at all – but every time there was a set change, you got four minutes (sometimes five) to get up and change seats. There was a bar on the stage, selling drinks and snacks. There were also seats on the stage, so you could see the play from a very different perspective. We sat in seven different locations. The longest break was ten minutes in the middle of Anthony and Cleopatra.
The cast were of course completely unkown to us, but were uniformly excellent.
Toneelgroep Amsterdam is the company, and one that we will watch for again. Ivo Van Hove, the general director of TA, created the production.
Coriolanus is still one of the weakest of Shakespeare’s plays, but the other two are among his strongest and more than compensated. It is just impossible to warm up to Corilanus ( I had nver thought of him as a Nazi, but this performance brought that to mind.) but the staging was great. It starts with his mother and wife are in an airport waiting lounge, expecting him to return from the wars. This enabled the bar on stage, the use of video and other technology all in context.
The use of video was innovative and very important to the production.
You had to be thre to really get the sense of this production, but everyone who was there loved it. There was at least a five minute standing ovation at the end, in which we whole heartely joined.

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About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
This entry was posted in Ivo Van Hove, Tonelgroep Amsterdam. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tragedies Romaines

  1. Keith says:

    Okay, so I thought it was going to be about failed Caesar salads… but when Cathy says "Jump", I buy the tickets.Actually, it was great – and well worth adding to our Standing Ovations list.Initially, not speaking Dutch, I was concerned that I would miss the action watching the surtitles on screen. However, it soon became clear that the screens were the play. Scenes were played out on various parts of the stage (or, in one case, on the street outside the theatre) but were "reported" by videographers with fixed or handheld cameras – Shakespeare presented by CP24.So the first two plays, and part of the last one, were presented as "breaking news" with the audience in an airport waiting area or convention centre; only for the last half to two thirds of Antony & Cleopatra were three of the four walls re-established and a more traditional theatrical experience developed as the audience was shooed off the stage. However, even here on-camera close-ups expanded the basic stage presentation.It must be a tremendous challenge for the actors as they have to play to the balcony at the same time as performing for the on-camera ultra-closeup.Anyway, really neat and worth the trouble and expense.

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