Harms I Donne-moi tes yeux, j'ouvrirai une fenêtre sur ma caboche / Harms II Crève ! Tu n’as pas d’âme

Théâtre Les Tanneurs

Harms I - Donne-moi tes yeux, j'ouvrirai une fenêtre sur ma caboche (Nouvelles du Je)
15/05 > 19:30
17.21.23/05 > 20:30

Harms II - Crève ! Tu n’as pas d’âme (Nouvelles du Je et du Monde)
16.18.24/05 > 20:30
22/05 > 19:30

Harms I + Harms II
19. 25 /05> 18: 00

Possibility to have dinner between the 2 performances
French - Subtitles: NL - 80’ (19.25/05: 160’ with intermission)

Kalugin slept for four days and nights in a row, and awoke on the fifth day so emaciated that he had to tie his boots to his feet with string to keep them from falling off. Daniil Harms or Kharms was born in 1905 and died 36 years later in one of Stalin’s so-called ‘psychiatric hospitals’. At the baker’s, where Kalugin always bought his wheat loaf, they did not recognise him and gave him a rye loaf instead. After Donne-moi tes yeux, j'ouvrirai une fenêtre sur ma caboche (1996) inspired by Kharms’ work, Xavier Lukomski is now offering us Crève! Tu n’as pas d’âme by the same writer. It is a production that is as funny enough to make you cry and violent enough to make you scared as it is profound enough to give you vertigo. “In the first creation we were cooking the soup. In the second we’ll be eating it.”

Author : Daniil Harms

Translator : Jean-Philippe Jaccard

Direction : Xavier Lukomski

Assistant to the director : Isabelle Rey, Elise Van der Goten

Set design : Fabienne Damiean

Costumes : Françoise Colpé

Lighting : Xavier Lauwers

Make-up : Françoise Joset

Executive producer : Anne Lemaire (Théâtre Les Tanneurs)

Coproduction : Le Théâtre des 2 Eaux (Brussel/Bruxelles), Le Théâtre Les Tanneurs (Brussel/Bruxelles), Le Théâtre d’Angoulême Scène Nationale, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Presentation : Théâtre Les Tanneurs, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Xavier Lukomski is artist in residence at the Théâtre Les Tanneurs, and associated with Théâtre d’Angoulême Scène Nationale

Harms I

Actors : Lula Bery, Pierre Dherte, Patrick Goossens, Estelle Lannoy, Lieve Phlippo, Jean-Michel Vovk

Props : Isabelle Marcelin

With the support of : la Communauté française Wallonie-Bruxelles Harms II

Actors : Estelle Lannoy, Lieve Phlippo, Patrick Goossens, Pierre Dherte, Jean-Michel Vovk, Cedric Le Goulven

Props : Christine Flasschoen

Realisation puppet and other special effects : Eric Dewulf – caramba décor

Direction singing : Annette Sachs

With the support of : la Communauté française Wallonie-Bruxelles, le Centre des Arts Scéniques

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Ladies, Gentlemen, Members of the Audience,

The story I am going to tell goes back to the last century, to the end of 1995 to be precise. It is a story about chance incidents, which do not exist. In this story I am only going to talk about myself and I hope you will forgive me for it. The incident we are concerned with here makes it utterly impossible for me to do anything else.

A small man declared,
“I could cope with anything if I were a little bit bigger.”
Barely had he spoken these words when a fairy appeared before him.
“What do you want?” asked the fairy.
But the little man was frozen with fear and dared not say a word.
“Well?” said the fairy.
But the little man stood there and said nothing. The fairy disappeared. Then the little man began to cry and bit his nails. First he bit all his fingernails, then his toenails.

1995 was the year I came across the work of the Russian writer Daniil Kharms (1905–1942). A Russian critic and dramatist, Ioulia, had just turned up at my house following a long and tortuous series of incidents. I had shown her some video footage of my performances. She deduced from them – with the assurance of those in the know – that it was absolutely imperative I read Kharms’ work. She thought I would find clear links in his work to my aesthetic issues. By chance – which does not exist – Kharms’ work, which dates from the 1930s, had just been published in French (1993).

Question:

Why are you giving us two performances about Kharms, an old one from 1996 and a new one in 2002?

Answer:

Everybody asks me that and I don’t really have an answer. Let’s just say that it seems so obvious to me that I can’t put it into words. Quite simply,Crève ! Tu n’as pas d’âme (Die! You don’t have a soul) is entirely the sequel to Donne-moi tes yeux, j'ouvrirai une fenêtre sur ma caboche (Give me your eyes, I’ll open a window onto my thick skull).

Before taking the pen name Daniil Kharms – a name in which he is said to have appreciated the tension between ‘harms’ and ‘charms’ – Daniil was Ivanovich Yuvachov. He claimed to be a “poet and dramatist who did not focus on a static figure, but on the collision of a series of objects and their reciprocal relationships.” For the mistake – during the Stalinist era – of demanding the right to an individual existence, to subjectivity and, in a word, to freedom, Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov died, at the age of 36, from hunger and cold. I am not sure about this – it’s a simple deduction I made during rehearsals – but he died during the siege of Leningrad (1942), at a time when they had stopped providing warmth and food to all those who were sick, handicapped, imprisoned and, consequently, ‘lunatics’ like him, a political detainee in a psychiatric hospital. He was a comic writer who was so alive, but who died like a dog.

Kalugin slept for four days and nights in a row, and awoke on the fifth day so emaciated that he had to tie his boots to his feet with string to keep them from falling off. At the baker’s, where Kalugin always bought his wheat loaf, they did not recognise him and gave him a rye loaf instead. A sanitary commission, on its rounds of the apartments, saw Kalugin, decided he was unsanitary and good for nothing and ordered the housing cooperative to throw him out with the rubbish. Kalugin was folded in two and thrown out, like a piece of rubbish.

I bought the book in Paris and read it immediately, in the metro. It was hot and it was as if the world around me had evaporated.

Makarov: Here, in this book, it tells about our desires and how to fulfil them. Read this book and you will understand how vain our desires are. You will also understand how easy it is to fulfil others’ desires and how difficult it is to fulfil your own.
Petersen: You sound awfully solemn. You’re talking like an Indian chief.

I prefer not to think too much today about whether the sacred Ioulia’s opinion was scathing or a real piece of critical analysis. All I know is that like the sky clearing after a storm – this chance discovery was a revelation to me.

Question:

Why wouldn’t the audience be able to understand a new appointment with Kharms without having the old one to put it into perspective?

Answer:

In an attempt to make myself understood, I can say the following. All the work on the stage design, acting, lighting and costumes has been aimed at creating a world in itself, a concrete, everyday, living world. In my head, and I think in the actors’ heads too, this world was alive, which meant that it didn’t disappear when the production was over. To understand it, you have to reunite past and present! And then there’s the pleasure of doing it too…

I had been looking for writing like this – funny enough to bring you to tears, profound enough to make you giddy – for ages, since forever. In 1996 we had a lengthy workshop on ‘all’ his works that had been translated into French. There was one question that was central, perhaps naïve, but nonetheless indispensable: is this theatre? Digging into the dozens and dozens of texts, we had rifled, rooted about and rummaged through practically all of it. They were short, incisive and dazzling texts, unlike anything else I knew, but familiar nevertheless.

To start with Kharms wrote poems that were influenced by the formalists. Then, between his many periods of detention, he wrote an unfinished play, a short story and several short narrative texts containing a lot of dialogue. Futurists put music hall above all other kinds of live performance. A succession of moments with no relationship between them, other than the energy from their being linked together or released when they collide… In Kharms’ writing, some elements have been left over from this futurist craze. Without illusion, but with a combative spirit, he sculpts a prose that has the violent vivacity of a lash from a whip and the burlesque irony of a hangman’s rope made from elastic.

S.W., in the magazine Art et Culture, October 1996

At the end of this same year, 1996, a production came out of this workshop called Donne-moi tes yeux, j'ouvrirai une fenêtre sur ma caboche. The title came from the funeral oration written by Daniil Kharms when Kasimir Malevitch died, and these are the words that I would like to have spoken at his burial, had I been there…

The Cashier:… They seated the dead woman at the cash desk and stuck a cigarette between her teeth to give her a greater resemblance to the living. The dead woman sat there looking quite alive, except that the colour of her face was verging distinctly on the green and one eye was open and the other completely shut. Never mind, said the manager, she’ll do

With the book battered, altered, scribbled on, worn out from having been read too much and looked at from all angles, six years and some other productions later Daniil Kharms is part of my personal history. Six years and some other productions later I owed it to myself to return there, make a new appointment and create another production, pick up the first one again and extend the story so that it is understood. The new production is to be called Crève ! Tu n'as pas d'âme. How can I express it? I believe it’s about keeping one’s eyes open…

Question:

How are we going to hide ourselves in other objects arranged in the WORLD? Do we have to see the extent to which a cupboard like this is longer, wider and taller than us?

Answer:

It’s absurd to believe that Kharms is a poet of the absurd. He just looked at the world and lodged it in his head, a world literally losing its marbles and destroying him, a mad and unbelievably violent world. The world as it is.

Xavier Lukomski, November 2001

Postscript

Question:

Without beating about the bush, why do we need two productions?

Answer:

Because in the first we’re cooking the soup and in the second we’re eating it…

The excerpts are translated from the French publicationEcrits by Daniil Harms, Christian Bourgois, 1993:Fable (p. 188), Le Rêve (p. 126), Makarov et Petersen n° 3 (p. 136),La caissière (p. 205), Le Sabre (p. 369)

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