The disappointing confessions of John Malkovich: ‘The infernal comedy’ at Bozar
I know of quite a few girls who would instantly faint if John Malkovich was holding his head against their belly. So imagine that you are a soprano and you have to continue singing. It was funny to see Malkovich fool around with the two sopranos, during The infernal comedy at Bozar (Brussels), last night. And the music was nice too, but apart from that? A rather disappointing affair.
As he was walking on stage – white suit, sunglasses on – you could feel the excitement in the concert hall. This is what everybody had eagerly been waiting for: the great John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons, Being John Malkovich) on stage. Here and now. Sure, there was an orchestra and two sopranos, but this was what you had bought your ticket for: to hear and see Malkovich perform.
He started off in a great way. He addressed the audience directly, threw some jokes in, as if this was going to be a performance by a stand-up comedian. You had the impression you were listening to Mr. Malkovich, but quite soon he made it clear that we were listening to the Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger, giving a reading at some sort of book signing session. The stage was empty, apart from a table with a few copies of his book. And then one of the sopranos started signing, accompanied by the Orchester Wiener Akademie: Sposa son disprezzata, taken from Vivaldi’s Ottone in villa.
This is the way it would be for the rest of the performance: John Malkovich would be telling a part of Unterwegers story, and then either Bernarda Bobro or Aleksandra Zamojska would sing. As the evening progressed, my disappointment was growing. In the beginning it really seemed as if this was going to be a John Malkovich-evening with some musical interludes, but in the end it turned out to be more of a musical programme with some interventions by Malkovich. Secondly, and surprisingly, it seemed as if Malkovich really needed his sheets of paper, to read his lines from. Those who had expected a great, intense theatrical performance just got a rather impromptu sounding, flimsy reading. And that story he was telling – the play itself – wasn’t exactly a spellbinding one.
Sure, it was fun to see him strut and talk, in that inimitable style of his. Or to see him interact with those two singers. And it was nice to hear some aptly chosen aria’s (Mozart, Haydn, von Weber…). But the unforgettable John Malkovich-evening lots of people in the audience were undoubtedly hoping for? No. We’ll have to rent a movie for that.