Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple
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Radical, unconventional and contemporary with the audience at its heart, the Transquinquennal collective excels at questioning theatre’s here and now. In 2012, the collective from Brussels seized upon a play by the wonderful Argentinian dramatist Rafael Spregelburd. The combination of his kamikaze humour and their sharp staging made La Estupidez a huge success. In 2017, Bernard Breuse, Miguel Decleire and Stéphane Olivier have asked Spregelburd to write them an original play. Joined by two actresses, they fabricate a post-dramatic fiction where roles are continually being overturned. And what does Philip Seymour Hoffman have to do with all that? Transporting us into a strange construction of parallel and contradictory stories, the play explores the meanderings of fame, class idolatry, the fiction of the self, the non-coincidence of the person and his image, the fraud of personality and identity. A truly schizophrenic play!
Bernard Breuse, Manon Joannotéguy, Miguel Decleire, Stéphane Olivier, Mélanie Zucconi
Fred Op de Beeck
Stage & costume design
Jean-François Lejeune, Raymond Delepierre
Arié Van Egmond
Assistant stage direction
Fred Op de Beeck, Pierre Ottinger, De Muur
Technical team Théâtre Varia
Odile Dubucq, Peter Flodrops, Laurent Gueuning, Mohamadou Niane, Tom Van Antro
Actor sound recording
Lucille Streicher, Coline Fouquet, Antonin Jenny
Actor Japanese movie
Saskia Hostens, Livia Cahn
Stéphane De Groef
Maxime Bodson, Louise De Brabantere, Joachim Hermann, Marie Messien, Didier Rodot, Luz Rodríguez Carranza, Laurent Talbot, Christophe Urbain
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre Varia
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre Varia, Théâtre de Namur, Théâtre de Liège, Mars – Mons arts de la scène, in the framework of 4A4
In collaboration with
Japanese Garden of Hasselt, Centre des Arts Scéniques
With the support of
Ministerio de Cultura de la República Argentina, Embajada de la República Argentina en Reino de Bélgica
L’Arche is the theatre agent of this screenplay
Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple
Philip Seymour Hoffman Look around you, Cynthia. Nothing’s real.
Cynthia Yes, well, I’ve got a problem with… convention. It’s a genre movie, isn’t it?
Director Mm. And what kind of genre do you think the film is?
Cynthia Ah well, as Philip’s in it… I suppose that it’s a film in the Philip Seymour Hoffman genre.
Director And that’s why you’d say that anything can happen?
Cynthia Absolutely not. I’m saying that I find it hard to believe.
Rafael Spregelburd is an Argentine dramaturge, director, translator and actor who was born in Buenos Aires in 1970. He has written some forty plays, translated into fifteen or so languages including French. The first of his plays staged in Belgium, La Estupidez, was produced by Transquinquennal.
Transquinquennal is a Belgian company that has been shaking up the French-speaking theatre scene since 1989. Among other things, the company explores contemporary dramas and stages plays by living authors and today has around forty shows to its name, performed in at least half a dozen countries. The collective crossed paths with Spregelburd in 2009, decided to tackle La Estupidez (“Stupidity”, which was no easy task), and then commissioned the Argentine playwright to write a play of his choice (or almost), one that would be called Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a renowned American actor famous for playing depraved characters, crooks and obsessives, as well as maladjusted characters, loudmouths with fatal flaws and in particular for his standout performance as the eponymous writer in the film Truman Capote. Hoffman died of an overdose in 2014 while shooting a major hit (the third in the Hunger Games series) and the producers gave serious consideration to creating a 3D avatar to complete the scenes he was supposed to be in.
This all led to Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple, a play written by Rafael Spregelburd being staged by Transquinquennal. The American actor, the starting point for socio-philosophic reflection, was the pretext for it, an opportunity to explore a subject whose political depth is probably not always given sufficient emphasis: identity. Do what we are, what we are supposed to be and what we are asked to be actually belong to us alone? Is that really what we’re made of? Is that where “I” comes from? Or rather how does a “we”, a social “we”, near or far, mean that an “I” exists, but an “I” that largely escapes me and is both essential and contingent? Are we what we are persuaded to be? Or is it what others are persuaded that we are? Encountering expectations, a story, a context and relationships from every angle, identity is unclear, subject to caution and shifting. At the end of the day, in reality could it be that “I” am or may be or must be “someone else” entirely?
Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple is a play that is practically impossible to sum up because it cannot be reduced. There are no possibilities or too many possibilities to risk revealing a beginning, a middle and an end for sure. And yet everything in this play seems simply to unfold. A framework is sketched out, unfurled and then disappears; another one is formed, linked to the previous one, then detaches itself only to reattach itself later in a disconcertingly organic way. What we can say is that there is a profusion of interwoven plots, zany situations, funny situations, others that are less funny, an inflow of explosive material and, throughout the play, a rowdy exploration of identity, a relationship with complex and fun reality.
Without revealing its structure, three main lines can be distinguished, three narrative layers that intersect and are reconciled without reaching a clear resolution, prompting more questions than they answer. These are:
- the American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, fairly disillusioned with his career, who is initially offered a role in an airport saga, Le voyageur vide, before being made a strange proposition;
- the Belgian actor Stéphane Olivier, whose personal life goes pear-shaped and who everyone takes for someone else;
- the famous Japanese actor Kiyoshi Kou, known for his unforgettable performance in the film Automne écarlate, who is confronted by a teenager who idolises him.
These three “characters” are themselves, themselves on stage, themselves in a certain reality, and someone else here and elsewhere – all at the same time. They act, they are acted, they act themselves. Stéphane Olivier, for example, exists in real life (we can almost be sure of that), exists on stage, is taken for Seymour Hoffman by everyone, which just appears to be a misunderstanding. Similarly Seymour Hoffman existed, exists on stage etc. but also seems to be Stéphane Olivier. And Kiyoshi Kou is himself somewhere in Japan, then another person, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Stéphane Olivier. But nothing is certain. Alongside the three of them, there are forty or so other characters played by two actresses and three actors.
What we see moves endlessly between the three frameworks; the focus shifts, the elements are reprised and combined again. We move from layer to layer, the turns taken are permanent, we move from one reality to another, from one dream to the next, until we no longer really know how or where we are, nor where we are going, nor what is true, what is false, who is who, who is talking about whom, and how. It is hilariously complex.
Jean-Pierre I said to myself that everyone here should make a decision. No one really knows who they are. The others see us and tell us their names. Our parents gave us a name they weren’t able to use for themselves. And after that, we, the silent little ones, without saying anything we act out before the others what the others think we’re supposed to act out, because we are who we are, because we’re called what we’re called. We’re adrift. There’s nothing inside us. The more we try to understand what there really is inside, the more it’s evident that all there is inside is what the others have put there so that they can deal with us, so that they can establish a social relationship with us.
Questioning reality on the one hand and identity on the other, Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple revolves around reality and its double(Clément Rosset), around the weird doppelgänger who stages thisstrange thing that just wants to be itself. It is also another being, andtwo aspects of one being or of one event that can coexist autonomously.The writing – both narrative and brimming with meaning – is full of humourand tinged with a salutary and disconcerting irony. It plays withcodes and evidence so well that in the fabric being woven you no longerknow who is who and why he is there. We no longer know but it is a positivething. Spregelburd invites us to let go, invites us to delve furtherthan just embark on a simple narrative decoding.
And we return to this question of identity, to this question with deliberately inflammatory potential. And what if Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple were a hilarious way of poking fun at the I AM WHAT I AM advert from Reebok, joining in with standardiser-moralisers over decades who call for all those searching for an identity to find themselves unique and transparent? Themselves? Who am I? And what makes me “me”?
And what if this play were a way of saying that I am not like what I am in a stable way, all the time wherever I am, that this has to be admitted and admitting it is not easy, but necessary, to have a better understanding of what reality is: something brutal and implacable? And if “oneself” were not remotely universal, enduring and definitive? And if Philip Seymour Hoffman, par exemple were, in the guise of a convoluted and contradictory story, an appeal to immerse ourselves in what reality is, that is to say something elusive that we cannot simply understand because it endlessly shies away from an isolation of meaning? A straightforward and playful invitation to joyous and theatrical immersion?
Thomas Depryck, May 2017Back to top
Rafael Spregelburd was born in Argentina in 1970. A writer, director, actor, translator and teacher, he is one of the most finest representatives of an extremely inventive and prolific new generation of Argentine playwrights (Javier Daulte, Alejandro Tantanian, Daniel Veronese and Federico León to name just a few) who started creating in the wake of the return to democracy following the end of the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. He trained as an actor and playwright with the dramaturge Mauricio Kartun and directors Daniel Marcelo and Ricardo Bartís, and has been directing since 1995. He writes his own plays and occasionally also adapts the works of other authors (such as Carver and Pinter). There have been frequent productions of his translations of Harold Pinter, Steven Berkoff, Sarah Kane, Wallace Shawn, Reto Finger and Marius von Mayenburg. In 1994, he set up the company El Patron Vazquez with the actress Andrea Garrote, writing several plays for it, including La Estupidez. With more than thirty plays to his name since the early 1990s, Spregelburd has continually undertaken a prolific and masterly exploration of form. This is particularly evident in a series of separate plays that make up the vast, many-sided Heptalogy of Hieronymus Bosch. Initially inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s Table of the Seven Deadly Sins (Prado Museum), the heptalogy is the result of over ten years’ work. The last piece in the series, La Terquedad [Stubbornness], premiered in German in Frankfurt in 2008. Written between 2000 and 2002, the fourth play in the series, La Estupidez [Stupidity] comes in the middle of the heptalogy. Rafael Spregelburd lives and works mainly in his hometown of Buenos Aires. However towards the end of the 1990s, with his work translated into several languages, he began to gain recognition beyond Argentina, primarily in Latin America and Europe and in Germany, Spain and England in particular. Spregelburd was awarded a grant by the Sala Beckett in Barcelona and gave seminars with the Spanish dramaturge José Sanchis Sinisterra. He received a grant from the British Council and from London’s Royal Court Theatre, was writer in residence at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, a guest writer and director at the Schaubühne in Berlin, a guest director at the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart and the Kammerspiele in Munich, commissioned by Frankfurter Positionen in 2008 and was a member of the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is published in Germany by Suhrkamp. In France, where it took longer for his theatre to break through than in other European countries, Spregelburd was unveiled to the general public and critics by the actor and director Marcelo Di Fonzo Bo who, with the Théâtre des Lucioles (in collaboration with Elise Vigier, Pierre Maillet or independently), staged La Connerie (Théâtre National de Chaillot, 2008), La Paranoïa (Chaillot, 2009), La Panique (École du Théâtre des Teintureries in Lausanne, revived at the Théâtre de la Bastille, 2009), L’Entêtement (Festival d’Avignon, 2011), Lucide (Théâtre Marigny, 2012) and several episodes in the Bizarra saga, a serial for theatre in ten “chapters”. L’Arche is the Rafael Spregelburd’s agent in France and has published three of his plays: La Paranoïa, Lucide and L’Entêtement.
Transquinquennal was founded in 1989 by Bernard Breuse and Pierre Sartenaer, and today comprises Bernard Breuse, Stéphane Olivier, Miguel Decleire and Brigitte Neervoort. They function as a single entity, a hydra with four or more heads, joining forces accordingly with one company or another from here or elsewhere. They have collaborated on several occasions with Dito’Dito, the former Groupe Toc and Tristero, to name just a few.Back to top