Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wooster Group's Hamlet (aftermath)

This is not a review. And it will probably remain incomprehensible if you don't at least read what the Wooster Group show is about. So you might want to start off with a positive review and/or a negative one.
(And, possibly, move to an insight into how they prepared it. And an insightful interview about the group. And an interview with Kate Valk.)

I had been waiting to see this for a long time. This is the group I always talk about during workshops and I have never seen act live. This particular show, well, could be an experimentum crucis of my (wavering) faith in theater as a live form of live art. I leave you with
my transcribed raw notes from the show, and below, a couple of ideas.

Theater as reproduction
- of what?
of our reality
=> cinema (is our reality)

other way: reality reproduces art
body is our basic reality

body as choreography

BUT it's first and foremost a SHOW

spaces of absence

The dance of the impotent body

to perform = to enact



conventionality of movement

performance as video art or rather as
echo of image
=> afterimage


The action lies between the acts


Playing on the players like on instruments
The players accompany a great
Is that bad?

"They killed theater" (audience member, calmly)
(So many deaths of theater before)
Good Heavens,
if that be so,
if this is the thing,
I humbly thank you.

Musical work - when works.

Women (Cate Valk, really) have more problems with show formula- because of
more emotional roles?

2nd part much better - uses the new convention.
(but also ends up more conventional)
Hamlet - actor - manipulates the actors - logical gesture.
search for an
aesthetic experience
(e.g. songs)

Warping time/space

But then it becomes simply multimedia entertainment.

+ + +

A man crosses the stage, says Peter Brook, and you have theater.
Pathos. That's what you get when a man crosses the stage. Anthropocentrism. The idea that it's all about us, really. The sin of vanity in all its splendor.

Who are we, really (on stage)?
How do we conduct our paths (on stage)?
What can we see if we introduce breaks into the surface of our behavior (on stage)?

The body becomes heavy.
It becomes an accessory. An object more than a tool. An instrument that cannot be played in a clean way is more of itself. It is less melody, and more instrument.
This body that struggles to fit into the image that will always outsmart it.

Their "on/off" stage presence (in the middle of a scene: "Let's skip this dialogue") is not shocking, it is part of the language of contemporary performance. It is part of our thinking, feeling of the frame/work of art as ambiguously present, intermittently present. Nice: it's when it turns us on, not the other way around. Hence the decadent flirt, hence the false opening, hence the play outside of a play outside of a play.


What do you want out of this? Out of this experience? What do you want out of a play?

Try this: Say: This is silly. Say: Theater is the essence of the misconception that it is all about the human. It is the place of the old-fashioned, stubborn faith in 1) the communion of the believers, and 2) the hierarchy of presentation. It is a stage which seems so enchanted with the universal human condition, it forgets the subtle yet profound changes of the aesthetic, the sensible, the eye of the beholder. It is a place whose very existence in these times is so out of joint, it is funny.

But what if we accepted this as part of the game? What if we played this game, using this as a platform to inquire into what conditions we are in, as the humans that have no choice but to, at one point or another, remain anthropocentric? What if we surrendered to the collision of times, this our present time of, say, having to read this text one line at a time, and the time of too many lines behind, and the time of too many lines besides, after, above? What sort of figures are we once we let go of our need for the unique now? Entirely?

Sensation> This our too too solid flesh is extremely flexible. And it goes along with the lines of tension, it follows the cracks and bounces off whatever is left as the aftermath.
Abstract? No, this is not abstract. It means: somehow, miraculously, we deal with change, since we live through it. And yet, we do not melt, we do not resolve ourselves into a dew. If we manage to tune in - we dance. Every step, stumble, vibration becomes a choreography of ourselves.

Sensation> We are not enough. The body fights to correspond to the twitches of the images, yet it lags behind. The eyes go back to the screen. We have no way of knowing how correct we are, yet the need of knowledge unveils our total, complete inadequacy. We are but thinking puppets, we are but repeating Plato, we are but warming up the stage for the image that comes behind. Whatever surrounds us is more powerful, and yet -

Sensation> The eye of the beholder might make a difference. The beholder as object, the beholder as a weaker alter ego. The beholder as the one who submits to the role of a prop, and whose tragedy, a subject realizing he is an object, becomes the juiciest work, the perfect crack in the façade of the perfect spectacle.

Oh, and don't pay attention to the ending. Don't pay attention to the illusion that the slave has become the master, that the technology is, after all, a tool, that we can use the past, control the present, cope with the future, that things are what we want them to be. Don't fall in the trap of theater, which numbs us into believing it's okay, images end, we are here, devising our entries and winning our exits.
There is a stage behind that one. But on it - well, take a peak.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very apt. Thanks for putting words to why I found this production so fascinating (I saw it in LA two years ago). I need to see more work by Wooster now that I live in their city.


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