Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Princess of Dramaturgy: Tibaldus @ Edfringe 2017

De dood. | trailer from Pieter Dumoulin on Vimeo.

Tibaldus, Big in Belgium, Richard Jordan Productions, Theatre Royal Plymouth in co-production with TONEELHUIS


by Witold Gombrowicz
directed by Timeau De Keyser
with Simon De Winne, Hans Mortelmans, Eva Binon, Lieselotte De Keyzer, Benjamin Cools, Ferre Marnef en David Van Dijcke
photography, film and design Pieter Dumoulin

at Summerhall, Edinburgh
15 – 27 August at 15.45 (17.20) (not 17 August)

Timeau De Keyser, Hans Mortelmans and Simon De Winne – together known as Tibaldus are one of Belgian’s most exciting and innovative young theatre companies, producing work that is fierce, surprising and thrilling.

They have joined with five other actors and dancers to create a bold and radical contemporary reworking of Witold Gombrowicz’s (‘The Shakespeare of Poland’) ground-breaking masterpiece Ivona, Princess of Burgundia the story of a royal family and its household which loses its grip when Prince Filip suddenly becomes engaged to Ivona. Unlike other princesses in the royal circle, Ivona is a frump, a revolting creature who everyone treats harshly. Burgundia’s ‘fairest’ stoically endures it all and despite everything, stubbornly remains mute, her passive bearing challenging the courtiers to confront their conceited, self-satisfied existence.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The work of the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz.
Gombrowicz was together with Stanislaw Witkiewicz and Bruno Schultz the most important figure of the Polish avant-garde. We’re performing his first play ‘Ivona, Princess of Burgundia’. A play from 1935. Besides Ivona, Gombrowicz’ journals were very useful to us whilst making this performance.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I think so. Theatre can be a very progressive medium. It can rethink reality. Every good play is avant-garde in some way. Every good Shakespeare is a meta-experiment with all his veiled references, his asides, his role changes, the fact that boys play girls who play boys, etc. In every good play there is a fundamental game with reality. 

The older I get, the more I begin to understand the value of that tradition. It is a real area of tension between a permanent experimental situation and a theatre tradition.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I always said that theatre is what I was going to do. As a little boy I dressed up, I directed my sister and my cousin and I made films with a cardboard box.
At the age of 18 I went to acting school and there I met Simon De Winne and Hans Mortelmans. When we were 19 we decided to work together and formed our company, Tibaldus.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

The circular set-up of the audience. It allows the spectators to watch at close hand and it opens surprising perspectives. It’s like a boxing match: the stage becomes an arena where the contestants exchange verbal uppercuts and throw their opponents on the defensive. The only means of fighting is language. There is no decor or props. Imagination supplies the props, fantasy and the setting.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Just as with the earlier projects of Tibaldus, Ivona makes the audience suspect they are witnessing a rehearsal. What’s different from previous shows is that there aren’t any alienating images such as in Persona (2103) or Paard: een Opera (2010). Here, there are no images at all. The actors are themselves and walk around dressed as themselves in their own clothes.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

That’s hard to tell. Because we can’t control that. I see it more as an individual relation with every spectator, more then ‘the audience’.

But nevertheless, I can say something about what we tried. The clash between Ivona and the courtiers is mirrored by the clash between the performers and the script. What the figure of Ivona is for the courtiers is what Gombrowicz’s play is for the members of the Tibaldus collective. Gombrowicz forces them to act in a way that makes their own position as actors problematic in relation to their co-actors and the audience. 

In that way we engage in a similar struggle with the medium of theatre and the idea of ‘representation’ that is inseparably connected to it. But at the same time, when we’re actually performing, that kind of dramaturgy falls away and we try to be as open, non-dogmatic and crazy as possible. Again, a childs game.

The Tibaldus collective is a company driven by the desire to tell stories bursting with humour and imagination, working with artists from different disciplines. It was founded by Timeau De Keyser, Hans Mortelmans and Simon De Winne who met while studying Drama at the KASK, Ghent in 2009.

Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 – July 24, 1969) was a Polish writer and playwright. His works are characterised by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life, but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature.  

About Big in Belgium
Following the huge success of the four previous seasons at Summerhall, which have included the award-winning Us/Them, One Hundred Homes and The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy, Big in Belgium, Richard Jordan Productions, Theatre Royal Plymouth and Summerhall return to present a fifth BIG IN BELGIUM season at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, featuring some of the most significant theatre companies from the Flemish part of Belgium. 

Each of the shows in this season has previously been very successful on the European mainland and are now presented for the first time to Edinburgh audiences, some translated and adapted, ready for breaking new grounds in English-speaking territories.

 Summerhall (Upper Church), Summerhall Place, EH9 1PL
Dates and Times:   15 - 27 August at 15.45 (not 17 August)
Running Time:   95 mins
Tickets:      £8 on 15 Aug, then £10 (£8)
Box Office:     0845 874 3001

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