Deprecated: Array and string offset access syntax with curly braces is deprecated in /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/misc/typo3/phar-stream-wrapper/src/PharStreamWrapper.php on line 445

Deprecated: Array and string offset access syntax with curly braces is deprecated in /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/sites/all/modules/entity_translation/includes/translation.handler.inc on line 1764
Stef Lernous | rehearsalmatters.org

Error message

  • Warning: ini_set() [function.ini-set]: Headers already sent. You cannot change the session module's ini settings at this time in include_once() (line 268 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/sites/default/settings.php).
  • Warning: ini_set() [function.ini-set]: Headers already sent. You cannot change the session module's ini settings at this time in include_once() (line 269 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/sites/default/settings.php).
  • Warning: ini_set() [function.ini-set]: Headers already sent. You cannot change the session module's ini settings at this time in include_once() (line 277 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/sites/default/settings.php).
  • Warning: ini_set() [function.ini-set]: Headers already sent. You cannot change the session module's ini settings at this time in include_once() (line 284 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/sites/default/settings.php).
  • Warning: ini_set() [function.ini-set]: Headers already sent. You cannot change the session module's ini settings at this time in drupal_settings_initialize() (line 819 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/includes/bootstrap.inc).
  • Warning: session_name() [function.session-name]: Cannot change session name when headers already sent in drupal_settings_initialize() (line 831 of /var/www/teaterseachange.dk/rehearsalmatters.org/includes/bootstrap.inc).


Stef Lernous

Director

Interview: Deborah Vlaeymans
Mechelen , January 29, 2009

How did you come to work with theatre and performance?

Ah… the genesis of things! It's not much more than an anecdote, I'm afraid. I've always had this huge appeal to movies. So I've been watching movies since I was 14 or 15, and sometimes I saw 3 movies a day. When I finished school at the age of 19, I went to a graphic arts department to design posters and so on. It was very commercial stuff and I felt I was too young for doing this. Then I became unemployed for almost 4 years. I had some jobs on and off, but that was a terrible experience. In one of these jobs I had to sell mobile phones. The first mobile phones that existed - it sounds as if this was a long time ago but really it isn't. A girl that was working in the same firm said to me, “You are quite funny and exuberant; would you like to give a speech at my amateur theatre company?” I said, "Yeah okay" - I didn't know much about theatre. I went there and actually it was a classical ballet company. That confused me! But since I was the only man around there I stayed and worked with them for 2 and half years. Practising classical ballet. Well, I was less fat than I am right now but I have always been quite chubby... I really learned to appreciate ballet.

It started out as a sort of weird joke, and then because of a lot of testosterone, together with a lot of girls... But at one point something happened that really moved me. I don't want to get too emotional or cynical about it. It was just a little step a girl did and I was suddenly moved. It struck me.

From then on I started with amateur theatre – I’m not really much of a dancer anyway. I wrote a play and a girl I knew directed it. I thought, if she can direct a play I can do it too! So I directed a play. But I didn’t think much of it. “Is this directing theatre? This is nothing”. I wanted to do something completely different. After 10 plays, or 10 times that reaction of "this is nothing" I decided to start something new: Abbatoir Fermé. It was actually going to be an amateur theatre company. The people I worked with were a bit upset because of the things I wanted to do. They weren't very extreme things, but I think it felt extreme to them. I put older people together with young people. In the amateur theatre company there was a sort of schism: you have the young people doing their thing and you have "the ancients", the classic people doing their thing. And the two don't mix too well. I wanted to put them together. I said, “Give me a budget and we will make something together based on a poem”. They exclaimed, "Not a poem! It has to be a play!". 10 years later, well, here I am.

To me the love of movies was very important. Especially some movies in particular that I saw at a very early age. They had a strong impact on me. For example, when I was 9 years old, I bought my first book with my own money. Alice in Wonderland, the English version. I knew some English but not enough to comprehend the whole book. A few months later I saw a soft porn musical of Alice on TV. I couldn't add it up. I was like, this is Alice in the book and then there is this Alice... It's pornography and they are singing songs! And I loved the songs. So I was very confused. Another few months later I saw a German-dubbed version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Here people were singing, too, and there was nudity in it. I was very intrigued by this cult universe.

It was very inspiring. I think that making theatre is about wonder. It is very important to see if it makes people wonder. I experienced it by seeing these things on TV and reading. I was so amazed. I thought the book was weird: “She is shrinking and she is growing? And what happens to her neck? What is going on with the rabbit?” Afterwards I saw the pornographic version: “And what is this? They are doing something which is forbidden. But they are singing about it. What's a nice girl like you doing on a night like this?"

I was amazed and I think that I want to replicate that sense of wonder. I want people to look at a play and just think, “What is this?” I want to mystify things again.

In traditional theatre - the text based plays - there is hardly any wonder. There is tragedy, of course. There are personas that you recognize. But it is not really a wonderland. And I try to create that. I think you have to re-mystify theatre.

Can you say more about getting an idea for a theatre production?

Ah, you ask this at the very right moment that is also the very wrong moment, because I start working on a new play this Monday. And it is always the same. It is so hard. It is so hard to remember how to make a play.

Together with the actors I sat today from 10 to 1 and we were asking ourselves how we made all these others plays. How did we do it? There is a lot of memory involved in more ways than one. First of all, let's take the very practical matters. For example, now, I don't have an idea, or I have too many ideas. None of them seem to me vibrant enough. It's a nice idea, but not enough to make a play for 90 minutes. It's good for a play lasting 10 minutes, or it's a 15-minute scene but not really for an hour or two hours. There is a concept, and I have a lot of concepts. We could make two or three hours of theatre based on those. But we don't want to go for the concept thing. Instead, it has to be very organic. It has to be ... this image. The right image makes the whole play and work worthwhile.

When we have no idea we go back in time. We thought about our last play Mythobarbital and how we created it. Here, too, there was no idea at the beginning. We thought about the next, Tourniquet, but we don't remember how the rehearsals went for that piece. We don't always seem to remember. We remember fragments. For example, Tourniquet is about rituals and circular motions. What I and the performers remembered from the rehearsals was that they were turning around a lot. At one point they are having a drink, reaching for the coffee and turning their bodies around to reach it. I asked them what they did. It was the effect of all the circular motion. It got to be almost like a shamanistic ritual.

If you choose to work with for example the history of rituals, you need to make it as ritualistic as possible. But re-mystify it. Let's not dance around a fire. We have seen Discovery Channel, read about it in books, and we draw parallels to primitive people dancing around a fire. Let's not do this, but re-mystify it. Let's take one ritual, another ritual and let's put it all in a circular motion. As you get in to the subject of rituals, the rehearsal also seems to become more like a ritual. This is very weird.

In reality, at one point you start making circles and you can't sleep at night, because your head is going in circles. Not literally, of course. Suddenly rituals are popping up everywhere. This is something I've noticed a lot of times when creating plays. Also, in the play Galapagos we worked with magic and got into a subculture. For example, if you want your garden to be really nice, you write it down in a sentence. Just start putting all these letters together until it becomes this very abstract symbol. And keep working on it until it is just the way you like it. That is what some magicians do. Not unlike cavemen who before they went on a hunt painted buffalos. “We are going to kill a buffalo, so I paint it. Go and kill the buffalo. Look, it worked! We shot the buffalo and it's dead now." I decided to try that myself. I did a whole dramaturgy based on that for Galapagos. I made this symbol: "I'm going to make a good play, the play that changes everything". I think it was probably the first important play of Abattoir Fermé. It changed everything we did after that, also in regard to the perception of the audience. Also moneywise, it opened a lot of doors.

But it is strange. I'm not saying I did magic. But it is weird how, when you go into the idea or into the subject of what the play is about, that at one point the methodology becomes the subject. And the subject becomes the methodology.

To go back to your own question: How do I get the idea and how do I go from there?

In the best case, like I said, I have an image. But mostly I have to ask myself: Where am I at this point in time? Let me put it like this, I think the most interesting is to make a play about things you can't think about. Something you can't imagine when you begin. I think that is the most interesting. I couldn't have imagined my last 5 or 6 plays. It is a very risky way to work, but I also find comfort in it. Because I know that if I have nothing by next week, I can put two actors on the stage with a bag of sand and I know I’m going to end up somewhere I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

That is what I mean about the “now”. It is decided by how the people involved are feeling in that moment and how I'm feeling now. You take a certain amount of history along with you. Not just a history of the company, but a history of the theatre. There is memory. Especially in theatre there is a lot of memory.

How do you work at Abattoir Fermé?

We have an artistic board consisting of the actors, the musicians, and me. Mostly it also includes a person I have to deal with in a way; someone I don't have chemistry, but “al-chemistry” with. It could be someone who has very different opinions and says the weirdest things. Right now we have this person on the board who is always asking the weirdest questions. I say, “You don't know why you are asking these questions, do you”? But it forces you to respond in a different way and it is interesting.

Recently I did an interview with another theatre maker. She had questions like: What kind of fairytale character do you want to be? How do you masturbate? She had this whole line of questions that go in all kinds of directions. None of them were really about theatre. It was very interesting. Again, the residue of this interview probably says more about who I am, what I like about theatre and how I work. I like it when people around me confuse me.

That is also why I like to work with another company as well. Because afterwards I will know better what I want to make for myself. It always ends in trouble or fighting, only now and then it has a beautiful result. But it is always a big fight.

So at Abattoir Fermé we have the artistic board and you might say that I am the leader, I give the initiatives. The actors involved are not just everyday people, they are not freaks, and they are typecasts as well. They have a very good and specific body type and physique, a specific way of talking, a specific fantasy – maybe not always useable, actually mostly not.

How do you find them?

It depends. I have done 15 plays with Tine during the last ten years. I fell in love with her when she was in theatre school. She was kicked out of school and decided never to do any theatre again. Three months later she was playing Salome in Oscar Wilde's play. So she stuck around. She is so talented. 

Chiel Van Berkel, a fabulous actor, was part of a duo called Wacko. They were quite famous and split up maybe 9 years ago I think. For 15 years they made comedy. I was really fascinated by them. Chiel is very rock' n’ roll. He is not afraid to improvise and a very handsome man. I could never have dreamed or imagined to work with him. But a friend said to me that I should work with Chiel. We asked him to coach our performance and during the next two months I never saw him. At the premiere he showed up. People talked afterwards about how the piece was really in Chiels style. He replied, “Well yes, I coached them”. I thought that was cool. He was the guy that coached us, got paid for it and we never saw him. He liked what we did. So we started making some more plays.

Kirsten was my student. She was the most timid of all. I asked her to do an internship with us, just to work on something. Now it has lasted for 4 years. The musician saw our play Galapagos and he said, “If you ever want to do something with music, then contact me”. We started talking about music and had a lot in common, so he also joined the club.

Nick is our manager now. This is a good story: He used to act but he stopped. I just met him on the street. He had such a peculiar physique. I went up to him - I was maybe 15 or 16 - and asked, “Would you like to be in my play?” He seemed very nervous, and later I heard that he was afraid I would catch him smoking, and tell his parents. I had no idea who his parents were, never knew them. We’ve been working together for 10 years now.

I believe in loyalty.

There are about a 100 movies that I think everybody that works with us should have seen. It is easier not to show these movies every time. We have seen them about 3 or 4 times. They are movies that I always refer to. I like to work with people who are very open, who agree that in the working process everything is "gratuit". Everything is gratuitous. Nothing you do will make any sense until you get in to the final part of rehearsals. The people I work with should maintain this openness.

Sometimes I get approached by actors who say, “If you are ever going to do something without nudity I want to be in it.” But I don't start my process with, "Okay, let's do nudity, let's get naked everyone, and let's make a play.” I don't do that. I don't want to be restrained by thoughts like, “I can't do nude with this person”. Or feeling that first I have to do a psychological game with actors or actresses in which I persuade them to show their body. I don't want to go through that anymore. I want to have people who are prepared to do anything. I am not going to go for blood. I am not going to go for too many faeces. We have to remain human with one another. Also, I like to work with people who are either very loyal or very normal in a way. They can be typecasts but I need to be able to have a normal conversation with them. I don't want people to be too arty. I don't want to get too sentimental but the people I work with are like family.

When you start working on a performance, how do you go about it?

I think this is what will happen: Monday we will get in at 10 o'clock, we will have a drink. They will ask, "So what is the idea"? I will answer, "I don't have an idea but I think we should do something with sand". Then I'll give two people bags of sand and I'll just look at them and I'll probably tear the hairs out of my head. But I'll keep watching them. It is not really improvising, it is more about just letting them stand on the spot. Just stand there. Just walk from left to right. Take off your shoes. Walk in the sand. Perhaps you should put on some different clothes and walk in the sand. Sometimes it is that easy. And when things get more complex, we always come back to this. Let's just walk. Walk by yourself.

Stories are created. As I said before, memory is very important in this process. We know that two people looking at one another can be enough. We know that people touching each other can be disturbing or very sensual. If for example I think of opera, I imagine fat women with viking hats. I think of Wagner. It is all about the memory of things you have seen, about the residue. I saw a man in a bar and he was vomiting. This picture got stuck in my mind. So possibly on Tuesday for example - after standing in sand – I might bring a toilet bowl with me and say, “Chiel, do something with the toilet bowl”. Then my memory starts to work, for example now, I'm thinking, "Ah yes, toilet bowls, what do I have with toilet bowls"? There is a beautiful story of an actress – I've forgotten her name – who was ageing and wanted to die gracefully. She wanted to commit suicide. She took pills and put on her best dress. She went into her beautiful bed and started writing a note in calligraphy – and she is about to die. She becomes nauseous, she gets out of bed, with the cramps. She's crawling to the toilet bowl. And she died with her head in the toilet bowl.

So probably when I see the toilet bowl I want to try out this scene. What if the actor is really dressed up? What if he has a suit on, but his head is in the toilet bowl? Is he dead or not? That could be interesting. Let's make that tableau. Let's do it in 5 minutes. Chiel with his head in the toilet bowl. Then at one point, what would happen if Tine just sits besides him and starts smoking a cigarette? We still don't know if this guy in the suit is dead or not. You start to wonder about their relationship.  All kinds of stories are created. That is what creating and directing is about. As an artist you have choices and with each choice you make there are a thousand more. I think that is what you should do. You make a decision, you feel good with it or not, then you can make another one. If it feels good you say, "Okay, let's get to the next choice.”

What is the essential for a good rehearsal process?

That is a very hard thing. Actually, you can make a lot of good images on stage. It is very easy to make good images because everything on stage mostly looks good. You put an actor there and you put the light on him/her – and it looks good. The second thing is creating an atmosphere. When you have an actor on stage you have an atmosphere. You feel that it's good. But that doesn't indicate if it is alive or not. That is very important for me. Is it alive or not, what is happening? Or is it just aesthetics? To me, it is nice to have just aesthetics, but it is boring. When is something alive on stage and when is it not? It is a difficult thing. I tried to explain this to my students. But I really have no parameter to describe it.

I know that with a play like Mythobarbital we made all these images, but sometimes I don't even trust my eyes anymore. I always have a little camera with me during rehearsals. I start taking pictures around a month before a premiere when the lights are set. Afterwards I look at the pictures and select the good images. When you create one visual play after the other you think, "Ah, we already did this, and we did this". But for me the camera is completely truthful. But it doesn't mean it's alive, the camera is about aesthetics.

I usually rehearse for 3 months, or 2 ½ months when I'm comfortable with the play. With the play Mythobarbital two weeks before the premiere the whole play was made – and there was no life in it. The actors were doing fabulously and everything was done well, but where was the life? Then we started to inject life into it. I think by concentration. I can't really describe it. It is a type of concentration and a type of efficiency.  I think it is a very important thing.

Is that essential for the rehearsal process to succeed or for the performance to succeed?

Let me just clear this up. When I talk for example about a premiere, it's only a sort of deadline. A point to work towards. But for me it remains rehearsal all the way. It doesn't stop with the play. For me, making a play is rehearsing. Everything that can be used to create an alternative reality should be used. I work with light and dark from day one. The lights get better during the process, but I work with lights from day one. I work with costumes from day one. Sometimes we start with a photo shoot. Just take a bunch of clothes and wigs and we say, "Okay, let's move" - and I take pictures. This is very old school stuff. I always ask them to put on some makeup, just a little, so that they themselves feel that they are going to do something important. “Ooh... It's makeup, so it's real...”

I organize these little moments, and every week people can come and watch. It is not open, I invite people, very different kinds of people. Every week I have people watching the play, mostly Fridays. We start working on Monday, start with some ideas. Redevelop them Tuesday to Thursday. Friday is very hectic, because the actors want to ‘show off’, you know. We have an audience there and the actors show what they have. Usually it is one hour.

So usually we start on Monday and by Friday we have an hour. It can be everything. From the lowest to the highest. We have done some stuff that was very embarrassing. But I think it is important to have a confrontation. Also for me as a director. You know, I'm not very concerned with, “So, what did you think of the play?” I don't expect that sort of expertise from other people. But I expect to look at their faces and look at the actors' faces. I think I'm more interested in the chemistry. They think it is funny. Why do they think it is funny? This is not funny... Ok, it is funny...

Everything that can be used to create another reality we should use. Decor and props are there from day one. I think it is important to stay very open-minded. It is a very practical thing as well. Very, very open-minded. You have to be willing to realise that things mutate, that things grow. Also for an actor. I think if one day you are sitting - I can remember a previous process - one morning you are sitting on wood. On a wooden floor, made of all kinds of different boards and shapes and sizes, and you’re thinking that this is an old room. All the floor boards have come up. Ok, let's do that.

The next day: "There should be charcoal - this should be charcoal. We need burnt wood - lots of it. Let's get one hundred kilos of charcoal in here!” Then the actors say, "It would be good if they were naked, naked and sitting there, with all the black stuff on their skin". We do it with black lenses. Them sitting there in the charcoal... And then we think, "Oh no, this is nothing. Perhaps we should paint all the boards black so it looks as if the floor has been burnt.”

This sort of organic process where you throw it all away... I believe in alchemy. I think sometimes, when people come into the rehearsal space, especially the first weeks, they are reacting to a kind of weird archaic laboratory with all the different stuff and it all looks nasty. But I like that. So you have to be very open-minded in the sense that you are able install an idea and not be concerned, if three days later the idea has become another idea. I think that is very fine. It is very organic.

Then it is a very satisfying process, I think. And you don't have to be scared to start again. That is what I try to explain. Ok, we’ve reached this, now throw it all away and let's stand. Again. Again. Let's go back to the table. Not too much with actors, though. I think an actor wants to play, he doesn't want to sit...

Mostly I talk before the rehearsals on the floor start. I talk with the actors about 10 days during the months before. And then, once we start, they are on the floor. Every week we make a kind of evaluation, but I think it is no use to sit with actors and dramatize and psychologise. They’ve had all that, in school, at a certain point in their lives. They want to act, they want to play, they want to be busy. It is also very interesting for me.

At one point I will ask the actors to go home, and I give them three days to prepare 15 minutes - something they would like to do. Sometimes I give them a movie, sometimes I give them music. I might say, “Here's three operatic versions of The Turn of the Screw”, or, “Here you go, here's a Strindberg, take it home, come back and give me the 15 minute version of what you think is important.” Also, what I sometimes like to do is write text, sometimes just one page, and I say to an actor, "Here's the text, you have 10 minutes to learn it, and then you are going to play it, without stopping and interrupting yourself.” Mostly from this one page they remember maybe 10 or 15 sentences, and then I know that these sentences are important to them.

These are the ones that stuck in their mind. So I'll take these 10, 15 or 5 sentences and start working on a new text with those sentences.

So in a nutshell: It's all about opening things up again, I think. You go to a point and then you close it and then you open things up again.

On the other hand, if it is about concentration and what I expect from an actor in the rehearsal process, it’s that they are willing to really go into the subject. Not taking distance from it. If we are doing a play about S&M, we're not hurting each other or cutting each other up, but they really have to go for that idea. They can't remain at a distance, looking objectively at sadomasochism, no, they really have to try to get it. They have to study documents, check it out and do interviews with people - but they really have to go into it.

For example, when we did Testament we went to a mortuary. And it’s not enough to interview the guy that cuts up the body and changes the blood by passing fluid. I think it is important to ... of course, this was a mortuary that we knew... But you dress up, you go with him to pick up the body. He says, “This is me and my colleagues”, condolences etc. You go and pick up the body yourself. You are not going to drain the blood, but you can wash the body, for example. I think that is important. Not to remain at a distance.

When Andre Gregory wanted to do The Bacchae by Euripides, he felt it wasn’t enough anymore to just do the play where you get a sort of substitute for the head. When the head is cut off by the mother and she parades it around town... It’s not real, you are dealing with the concept, with imagining how gruesome it must have been. What I think you should do with the play, and what Gregory suggests is that you get a head out of a mortuary and pass it along the audience, and they will understand the gruesomeness, the reality of it. Like it probably would have been when the story was being told back then.

I think this is what an actor should go through as well, for example by holding the body at the mortuary. In a way. It is about experience, I think, to a certain degree.

The final questions...

Already? But this is fun...

 ... Can you imagine an ideal rehearsal process?

Yes, but I have that. I think it is something you work for. It takes a while to realise that, but I've been taught well by others. As a theatre director or as any artist, I guess, you have to create the most ideal circumstances. They are not always ideal, but I think you have to go for it and at one point - there will be a point at which you can guarantee them: This is how I want to work. This is how long I want to work, these are the people I want to work with. And... I am there!

I would like to do more things in theatre. I would like to work with more people, with 20 people for example, but moneywise it is impossible. It's a shame. But the way I want to rehearse: I been doing that for a few years now.

If you could be free from any restrictions - practical, ethical, physical, biological...

I'm not sure. There are a lot of restrictions because I don't think the imagination is restricted. So there are no restrictions... The things we've been thinking about doing, some of them are within reach. Let's start with an easy one. I’m imagining this fish girl with whom you have no sympathy whatsoever. So we went to a make up artist - she can do it, no problem. We can make a girl look like a sort of fish with a few strains of hair. She is wearing this beautiful flowered dress, and she is rope skipping. But then she is getting this heavy ugly breathing, and after an hour it really gets on her nerves. Then she is eating with her father and her little sister, and she is drooling and spilling food. Everything is on the floor and the father has to mop it.

The father is crying at the table. And at one point I imagined a big fish, lying on the floor. And the fish is in a puddle of water and it is - everybody knows the image, it's gruesome – its’ trying to get air. But I imagined this girl going into a synchronicity with this fish, breathing heavily, and the breathing becomes the same - she is empathising! With this fish. For the first time she feels a connection. And when the fish finally dies, she remains there. She goes up to the fish, cradles it gracefully and starts to eat it.

The problem is of course the fish. Letting a living creature die on stage. I'm sure it has been done. There's that London student who puts fish into the blender. Which I think is marvellous.

I remember we did a play where at one point - in rehearsal - we killed a mouse. One mouse. And we felt so bad about it. We felt incredibly bad. We still talk about the mouse. We laugh, of course, but still we are... Aah... We didn't even know it, while playing, that we killed it. This tragedy.

I wish I had the balls to use a live fish and a really big one. Just this big fish. It would be such a beautiful image. A very shiny black floor, and the girl. I think it would be a moment where the audience would hold their breath, not knowing what to do, but still... Being drawn into the moment.

Then the problem is that if there is no aesthetical restriction to it, then it probably won't have an impact. Perhaps it is a good thing that we are very restricted. The imagination about the biological capacities - that would be amazing. But still I think it would also reach its limit quite quickly, for example if we started experimenting with genes... You'd have this very weird cryptozoological menagerie on stage. But after two times I think it's finished. So where to go from there?

A few years ago I thought: Physically it has all been done. We’ve done it. We have bent our actresses, we have put them in little black boxes. We put a girl in an aquarium under water for an hour with a little tube. We've made the actors dance, we've put them upside down, we've struck them. We've put bits through somebody's body. We have breathed fire.

Yeah, it's finished. We did a whole mimicry of animals. It’s finished. There's a limit to it. And I was very sad about that. I said, “The physique has come to an end.”

But it is not true, because with every play they have been reinventing themselves. So I would say that there is no limit, really no limit to the fantasy and the body. If you have enough fantasy, the body can reinvent itself unlimited. So in a way, yes, I have all these very Utopian, biological wishes - but we achieve them anyway. And I think that is what theatre is also about. About making the explicit exist next to the non-explicit. We don't need a genuine chopped-off head, we can insinuate a chopped-off head.

It's not that we should have a upholstered head instead of a real head. That doesn't work. It has to be better than that. But this utopia and no bounds... it's a very interesting thing to think about.

And another important thing about our way of working: Sometimes we just write stuff which is impossible to do, and then we start to try it on the floor. If I read F. X. Kroetz’ Bauern sterben where there is a scene with a big tractor, and they just drive and they drive a woman over - why can't you do that on stage? There must be a solution to that. You just have to be willing to go for a very good image.

Is there any problem in your rehearsal or creation, something that comes again and again that you can’t solve?

There is an annoyance. I wouldn't say a problem. I think it can't be dealt with. I think it always takes a lot of time to prepare. For example if you want to write something: I’ve spent almost two or three months preparing myself to sit in a chair and start to write. It is a very annoying period. It's frustration. Because it is you and the questions, and you try to pick up as much stuff as possible. This stress that you have to deal with, “ok, let's get inspired”, “ok, I have to write about this” - and every moment in this period when you get distracted by something, you are angry with yourself. It’s very annoying.

And with actors I noticed that they have the same thing. We talked about this today. We have a very short period now, normally we rehearse from 10 to 6, at the moment we rehearse from 10 to 4, because they have to play in the evenings. But I noticed this: I know that from 10 to 1 we are not going to be on the floor.

Because they really have to - and they are not lazy, it’s not as if they don't want to - but they have to get into this mood to play. They have to prepare. Sometimes by 10.30 they are on the floor. They start the makeup. They hang up clothes and put clothes on - but they don't really get started. Not till the afternoon.

Better even, if you can rehearse at night. For a strange reason, I don't know why, rehearsals at night work better. They are tired enough. They don't have to deal with what happened during the day, and they want to get the most out of their evening, because they want to go home. And for 3 or 4 hours there is this energy, this magic. It also feels good to go home when it is dark outside. It just has this great feeling.

But this period is very annoying. I wish it could be: We are going to start on Monday, so I START on Monday. And not having these two months of turmoil. Beause it really ruins two months. I can do whatever I want. I can go to Los Angeles for two weeks with my laptop and I'm going to write. It's not happening. You can't write. It's no good. You have to go through these periods... Of preparing. But it is really my own problem, I think.

 

 


Edited by: Barbara Simonsen