My love wears forbidden colours: ‘Het mystieke huwelijk/The mystic marriage’ (Guy Cassiers)

Sometimes you wish you could bring your remote control. Press pause and then rewind to hear that beautiful sentence once again, because you want to make sure that none of the nuances have escaped you. Het mystieke huwelijk by Guy Cassiers (Toneelhuis, Antwerp; performance in Dutch) has plenty of those moments, as it is the second part of a trilogy based on Robert Musil‘s masterpiece The man without qualities. You do feel throughout the evening that this is literature brought to the stage and not really a play, but all in all: nice one.

A brother and a sister meet after their father’s death and feel strangely attracted to each other. That’s the central theme of Cassiers’ Het mystieke huwelijk (The mystic marriage). Then there is an emotionally labile woman harbouring a fascination for murderer and rapist Moosbrugger, and of course, the political situation: Vienna shortly before World War I. As I never managed to finish Musil’s monumental novel (more than 1.700 pages), I can’t say if Cassiers has done Musil any justice. But it does allow me to say that at moments you feel a bit lost, watching this play, wishing you would have known just a little bit more about all of this, before taking your seat.

On the other hand: there are enough good things to say about this play. You might feel a bit lost, but you’ll never feel bored. There’s that beautiful language, to begin with. Lots of sentences you want to savor. The kind of sentences that lead to laughter about a second or so later, because it does take a second to get the joke. The acting is great too. One might say that Ulrich (the brother) and Agathe (the sister) act a bit to cool and detached, but I have nothing against this style of acting, as both actors really try to transfer the beauty of those lines.

And: their coolness is nicely balanced with the more grotesque approach of a couple of other actors (Count Leinsdorf and General Stumm). Somewhere in between you’ll find Diotima (a wonderful Gilda De Bal) and Clarisse (an exquisite Katelijne Damen). I do like the way as well in which Cassiers gives this slow and rather static play a twist in the end, with a slightly warped scene at a bal masqué, nicely accentuated with the image of James Ensor’s Christ’s Entry Into Brussels appearing on the back wall.

Part three will premiere May 11 2012. Info here.

 

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