De man zonder eigenschappen: Trilogie

Théâtre National

26/05
part I: 14:00-17:00 (with intermission)
part II: 19:00-20:45
part III: 22:00-23:30
NL > FR

Guy Cassiers’ total theatre is an art in variations of scale. He uses technology so that we can penetrate deeply into the human soul, while aesthetic artificialisation reveals the comedy of society with tragic insight. His cycle dedicated to Proust has entered into festival legend, but he invites us now to an adaptation for theatre of another literary monument of the 20th century: Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities. Unfinished at the time of the writer’s death, this saga is a disillusioned satire of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eve of the First World War: the end of a reign that reflects the social and political confusions of contemporary Europe. Begun in 2010, Cassiers’ trilogy taken from this kaleidoscopic fresco concludes with the creation of De misdaad (The Crime). As well as this final part, there is also an opportunity to see the world premiere of this masterly cycle performed in its entirety. Definitely not to be missed!

“Je ziet zelden theater zoals de trilogie ‘De man zonder eigenschappen.’”
Wouter Hillaert, De Standaard

« Un très beau spectacle, très actuel. Ne sommes-nous pas à nouveau au bord du volcan ? »
Guy Duplat, La Libre Belgique

De parallelactie. De man zonder eigenschappen I

Direction

Guy Cassiers

Text

Robert Musil

Text adaptation
Filip Vanluchene, Guy Cassiers, Erwin Jans

Dramaturgy
Erwin Jans

Performed by
Dirk Buyse, Katelijne Damen, Gilda De Bal, Vic De Wachter, Tom Dewispelaere, Johan Van Assche, Liesa Van der Aa, Wim van der Grijn, Marc Van Eeghem, Dries Vanhegen

Music & live piano
Johan Bossers

Design

Guy Cassiers, Enrico Bagnoli

Light design
Enrico Bagnoli

Sound design
Diederik De Cock

Costumes
Belgat (Valentine Kempynck with Johanna Trudzinski)

Video editing
Frederik Jassogne

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre National de la Communauté française

Production
Toneelhuis (Antwerp)

Coproduction
De Tijd (Antwerp), CDN Orleans, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens, Centro Dramático Nacional (Gobierno de Espana) (Madrid), Holland Festival (Amsterdam)


Thanks to
Norbertijnerabdij Tongerlo, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen


Iconographic sources
James Ensor, De intrede van Christus in Brussel © Sabam Belgium 2010, Leonardo Da Vinci, Het laatste avondmaal © Hal9000 Srl Novara, Italy - www.haltadefinizione.com - Per concessione del Ministero beni culturali - Soprintendenza per i beni architettonici di Milano

The script is based on
the Dutch translation by Ingeborg Lesener © 1988/1989/1996 Ingeborg Lesener & uitgeverij J.M. Meulenhoff Bv (Amsterdam)

Het mystieke huwelijk. De man zonder eigenschappen II

Direction
Guy Cassiers

Text
Robert Musil

Dramaturgy
Erwin Jans

Performed by
Katelijne Damen, Gilda De Bal, Vic De Wachter, Tom Dewispelaere, Liesa Van der Aa, Marc Van Eeghem, Koen De Sutter (on video)

Design
Guy Cassiers, Enrico Bagnoli

Light design
Enrico Bagnoli

Sound design
Diederik De Cock

Editing
Frederik Jassogne

Costumes
Belgat (Valentine Kempynck)

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre National de la Communauté française

Production
Toneelhuis (Antwerp)

Co-productie
Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens, CDN Orléans, deSingel (Antwerp)

The script is based on
the dutch translation of Ingeborg Lesener © 1988/1989/1996 Ingeborg Lesener en uitgeverij J.M. Meulenhoff Bv, Amsterdam.

Iconographic sources
James Ensor, De intrede van Christus in Brussel, © Sabam Belgium 2010

De misdaad. De man zonder eigenschappen III

Direction
Guy Cassiers

Text
Robert Musil

Tekst adaptation
Yves Petry

Dramaturgy
Erwin Jans

Performed by
Johan Leysen, Liesa Van Der Aa

Design
Guy Cassiers, Enrico Bagnoli

Light design
Enrico Bagnoli

Sound design
Diederik De Cock

Video editing
Frederik Jassogne

Costume design
Belgat (Valentine Kempynck)

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre National de la Communauté française

Production
Toneelhuis (Antwerp)

Co-production
Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Les Théâtres De La Ville De Luxembourg, Maison De La Culture D’amiens, CDN Orléans, deSingel (Antwerp)

The script is based on
the Dutch translation of Ingeborg Lesener © 1988/1989/1996 Ingeborg Lesener & Uitgeverij J.M. Meulenhoff Bv (Amsterdam)

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De man zonder eigenschappen (The Man Without Qualities)

Robert Musil died on 15 April 1942 in Geneva. Two days later he was cremated in the presence of eight people. Musil presumed he would live to celebrate his 80th birthday and that he would have enough time to finish his novel The Man Without Qualities. At the same time, he was consumed by doubt - doubt as to whether he would succeed, and doubt as to whether it still made any sense. What, in 1942, at the height of the Nazi domination of Europe, was the point of working on a panorama of the old world of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1913, just before the outbreak of the First World War? Musil feared that his work was no longer topical, that the world had changed too much. Yet he was also convinced that he was writing a crucial book. History ultimately proved him right. Like an unfinished symphony, his novel is now widely seen as one of the most important European novels of the twentieth century.

Born in 1880, Musil saw first-hand the rise and fall of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire. It would inspire his entire output as a writer. In the 1920s and 1930s Musil also witnessed the rise of Hitler and of Nazism. These events also left profound traces in his writings, even though he continued to conjure a vanished world in his work.

The Man Without Qualities is a colourful and satirical panorama of a society dancing on the edge of a volcano, unaware of the impending eruption. The eruption in question was the First World War, while the society in question was the vast multi-national and multi-cultural Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was both Imperial and Royal, ‘kaiserlich und königlich': k. und k., hence the name ‘Kakanien' Musil mockingly gave it. The Empire's unity was under pressure from the various nationalisms, and this tension would ultimately lead to the eruption of the First World War in 1914, a war that would put a brutal and definitive end to Old Europe.

A few facts will clarify the political complexity of this vast empire. In 1913 the Dual Monarchy consisted of the present states of Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as parts of Italy, Poland, Ukraine and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The languages spoken in the Empire were German, Hungarian, Czech, Croatian, Polish, Ukrainian, Slovakian, Italian, Serbian, Romanian, Bosnian and Slovenian. A total of 51,000,000 inhabitants were spread out over an area of about 680,000 square kilometres. The Empire included two capitals, Vienna and Budapest, and five religions: Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Protestantism and Orthodox Churches. It was a multi-national and multi-cultural empire, with many languages and subcultures, although always dominated by the German-speakers. The latter felt tied to the German Empire, which was ruled by the Prussians. There was constant tension between Prussia and Austria.
The novel is an anthology of everything that led to the demise of a grandiose era on the eve of the First World War. Musil was an engineer of the human soul and at the same time a subtle craftsman exposing the mechanisms underlying political and social life. Adapting such a tremendous novel for the stage inevitably demanded radical decisions. Guy Cassiers concentrated on two main story lines: a political satire, and a love story. The political satire is a sharp and biting diagnosis of an era, while the love story explores the possibilities of escaping from society's pressures. Both storylines evolve around the pivotal figure of Ulrich. Unwilling to become a man with qualities, someone in reassuring possession of Christian and social virtues and firm beliefs, he is the man without qualities: the man who believes more strongly in possibility than in reality. Musil's characters live in a kind of vacuum. The idea of living in a transition period in which all values have been shaken is familiar to our own epoch. With The Man Without Qualities, Guy Cassiers continues his exploration of the relationship between individuals, politics and power which he began in his Triptiek van de Macht (Triptych of Power): Mefisto for ever, Wolfskers and Atropa: Avenging Peace.

Part 1: De Parallelactie (The Parallel Action)
De Parallelactie centres on preparations for the anticipated celebration of the seventy-year reign of Franz Joseph in 1918. Delegates from the most important groups in Austro-Hungarian society have come together in what is called the ‘Parallel Action': an action committee gathering ideas and plans for the celebration. Through his father's doing, Ulrich unwillingly becomes the secretary of the organisation and thus comes in touch with the representatives of a disintegrating society. Here Musil shows us his sharp, satirical side. ‘Kakanien' is a world in decline, a world in which the past no longer offers something to hold on to while the future has yet to take shape. Musil presents a sequence of characters which he describes more or less mockingly: the patriotic and conservative Count Leinsdorf; the arrogant German industrialist Paul Arnheim; the comic General Stumm von Bordwehr; Count Tuzzi, an admirer of young actresses; the dizzy idealist Diotima; the right-wing politician Von Schattenwalt; the failed artist Walter; the nervous and unbalanced Clarisse; etc. A hot topic of conversation, besides the preparations, is the murderer and sexual delinquent Moosbrugger. It is an expression of their penchant for the morbid and forbidden. By means of this colourful procession of characters, Musil describes a world in search of itself but which loses itself in an obscure heap of opinions, ideas, world views, philosophies, possible and impossible plans. We watch as a group of people fossilises itself. Their sole reference is the past. They can only see reality through the nostalgic lens of their past grandeur. They cannot or do not want to see their own decline. Language serves only to dissemble. They live in a world that no longer exists. Here too a form of incest threatens: the parallel action is only busy with itself. Personal interests ultimately trump political objectives, and extremist ideas gradually take over....

Part 2: De Mystieke Huwelijk (The Mystic Marriage)
Next to the sphere of political intrigue one finds the private sphere, in which Ulrich has passionate talks with his sister Agathe. They hardly knew one another as children and only met again after the death of their father. A mystical love grows between them, constantly overshadowed by the threat of incest. This is where Ulrich's ‘sense of possibility' receives its most concrete form. The satire is replaced by a near mystical quest for another world. The tone is less ironic, more melancholy. In their conversations, brother and sister bring up memories of a summer they spent together as children. Ulrich and Agathe grow closer and closer to one another, even though they realise the impossibility of their situation. Brother and sister try to remove themselves as much as possible from the outside world, but it intrudes more and more aggressively in the form of four characters we recognise from the first part: the conservative Count Leinsdorf keeps believing against better judgement in the old social ideals and the unity of the empire; the naive General Stumm von Bordwehr reveals himself to be a veritable schemer; disappointed in love, Diotima immerses herself in the study of sexology and feminism; and lastly, the mentally unstable Clarisse idolises the murderer and rapist Moosbrugger, in whom she sees a sort of redeemer.

Part 3: De Misdaad (The Crime)
In the finale to the cycle De Misdaad, a text written by the Flemish author Yves Petry, both the criminal Moosbrugger and the writer Musil are given a voice. Both are confronted with a woman, respectively a prostitute and a former lover, for whose deaths they are each responsible. The cycle as a whole offers an increasingly focused view: part one offers a panoramic overview of society; part two penetrates the intimacy of a couple; part three descends into the dark depths of the subconscious.

"What Musil did in his major novel is in a sense comparable with Schoenberg's use of atonality or the departure from figuration in painting. He made short work of traditional storytelling, the narrative basis, and replaced it by an essayistic-narrative principle that is itself an "open system" in which one cannot work up to a glorious finale, with even more brass instruments and lots of percussions." (Jacques Kruithof)

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Guy Cassiers (b. 1960) is one of Europe’s leading theatre-makers. His idiosyncratic theatre work in which his passion for visual technology and literature make a successful marriage, has won him acclaim at home and abroad. In recent years Guy Cassiers has concentrated on the complex relationships between art, politics and power in his Triptiek van de macht (Triptych of Power) (Mefisto for ever, Wolfskers (Belladonna), and Atropa. De wraak van de vrede (Atropa. Avenging peace). He continues to build on this theme in a new triptych based on Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities), Robert Musil’s great novel. The kaleidoscopic story of Viennese society just before the outbreak of the First World War becomes a mirror of the social and political confusion of our own time. Along with visual technology, music has begun to play an increasingly important role in Cassiers’ productions, as exemplified by the two operas he created in 2009: House of the Sleeping Beauties (music Kris Defoort) and Adam in ballingschap (Adam in Exile) (music Rob Zuidam). Perhaps it is no coincidence that he is currently staging Wagner’s Ring in Berlin and Milan. Likewise Guy Cassiers’ growing interest in European political history is reflected in his latest projects Bloed & rozen. Het lied van Jeanne en Gilles (Blood & Roses. The Song of Joan and Gilles) about the power and manipulation of the Church, and Duister Hart (after Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) about European colonial history. However, those who go and see SWCHWRM - a play about a boy who decides to become a writer and discovers it is not that easy after all – will know that Guy Cassiers is also capable of striking a lighter note.

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