(José Luis Peixoto, Blank Gaze )
The first novel Nenhum Olhar ( Blank Gaze ) by the young Portuguese author José Luis Peixoto (born in 1974) was published in 2000. The following year he received the José Saramago Literary Award. The novel has been translated into several languages, and Peixoto is now considered a major young voice.
STAN asked Peixoto to write ANATHEMA , his first play, for Jolente De Keersmaeker and Tiago Rodrigues, a Portuguese actor STAN has already collaborated with on several times.
This time, his sources of inspiration weren't childhood tales. In this new text, the author speaks of terrorism, fear and violence, from the inside, as it were. How far can one go to defend an ideal? What means is one allowed to use for furthering a cause? How to respond to violence aimed at oneself? These and similar questions motivate the creators of this performance.
Moreover, tg STAN believes that theatre companies should not only perform stock pieces, but that it is of the utmost importance to link up with the creative process of contemporary authors, like they did here.
Tackling terrorism on stage is a tall order. How do you begin to explore its causes, impulses and dilemmas without veering towards documentary or tourrit moralising? Well, you could do worse than take a worms-eye-view of fear and violence, seen from the inside in this troubling new play by José Luis Peixoto, the prizewinning Portuguese novelist. The paradox is that a work inspired by atrocities (Chechnya, Beslan) comes across as intimate, almost homely. Peixoto's approach is circling, allusive, tweaking our off-the-peg preconceptions. The actors start inside their own drama, with a rather heavy-handed nod to Romeo and Julia as other lovers shackled by inherited embedded hatred. Gradually they connect with the audience, emerge as hostage-takers in a clever game of shifting identities, juggle with private emotions versus commitment to a cause. The tone is conversational, diffident, poetic. There are some sententious lapses. Mostly, however, an exquisite uncertainty prevails. Emotions are stirred, shut down, reignited. Spectators are not only hostages but also the culpably indifferent.
ANATHEMA , Financial Times, Claire Shine, 17/11/05
It is one of those texts that grip you without being aware of it, sweeping you away for much longer than you'd ever had thought possible, to dump you in the end at the side of the road. A dialogue between a man and a woman weaving a web of love and fear, of special moments and loss. It is all performed in the typical tg STAN style, explicitly addressing the audience while hovering on the verge of an expression without pathos nor psychology. This type of theatre, which is often fascinating, meets its limits in ANATHEMA . It cuts slightly too close to the bone - perhaps because of the closeness between the author and his performers - but knows when to come to a close. And it leaves the audience eager to discover Peixoto's novels.
The war lovers , Le Monde, Brigitte Salino, 17/11/05
ANATHEMA , performed by Jolente De Keersmaeker and Tiago Rodrigues, is written for them by the young, prize-winning Portuguese author José Luís Peixoto, who until then had only written novels. You feel this; his script is dense and suggestive. But this makes it one of the most interesting dialogues about violence performed in recent times. Two people with a sombre experience of war are together on the stage. The man recalls how he saw his grandmother raped and murdered, the woman (his girlfriend?) remembers the time when the meaning of words was still simple. "When we just used to go to the theatre." By airing views about Chechnya, Peixoto brings a remote 'war' into the auditorium and makes it tangible.
Is this a reconstruction of traumatic memories? An attempt to break the theatrical illusion? The play leaves everything open, but the insinuation is strong: your safety can be blown to smithereens at any moment.
"It does you good to be cuddled once in a while" , De Morgen, Wouter Hillaert, 12/12/05
a performance by Jolente De Keersmaeker, Tiago Rodrigues and Thomas Walgrave
with Jolente De Keersmaeker and Tiago Rodrigues
translation Carlos Batista
lighting design and video Thomas Walgrave
costumes An D'Huys
set design Jolente De Keersmaeker, Tiago Rodrigues and Thomas Walgrave
language advice Laurence d'Hondt
special thanks to Martine Bom and Sien Van den Hoof
production tg STAN
coproduction Théâtre de la Bastille (Paris), Festival d'Automne (Paris) and Culturgest (Lisbon)
premiere 14 November 2005, Théâtre de la Bastille/Festival d'Automne, Paris