who promised to come to supper in the Gentzgasse
after the performance of The Wild Duck,
around half past twelve,
I observed the Auersbergers from the ear armchair
I sat in almost daily in the Fifties,
and I said to myself that it had been a terrible mistake
to accept the Auersbergers' invitation.
(first sentence from the novel Holzfällen by Thomas Bernhard)
In the mid-Eighties Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) wrote a trilogy devoted to art: Der Untergeher (1983) about the pianist, Glenn Gould, Alte Meister (1984) about painting, and Holzfällen (1985) about the theatre. Twelve years after the monologue Oude Meesters , adapted from the second part of this trilogy, Damiaan De Schrijver and Jolente De Keersmaeker thought the time had come for a new soliloquy, Brandhout. Een irritatie after Holzfällen. Eine Erregung .
Bernhard's constant criticism of Austria and its people caused numerous scandals and legal actions. The novel Holzfällen was banned immediately after publication. Bernhard took revenge by stipulating that his plays were not to be performed in Austria until fifty years after his death. In other words, Austrian audiences would have to wait until 2038 before they could see any of Bernhard's plays. Later on his will was reversed.
Brandhout. Een irritatie is part of the selection for the 2009 edition of the Dutch Theatre Festival TF-1.
"Theatre is deceitful, a compromise; none of what was originally planned happens on the stage". Here you have Thomas Bernhard's condemnation of the Viennese art clique of his day, in Damiaan De Schrijver's interpretation also a comment about today's art world. During the course of a midnight dinner in honour of a great actor, De Schrijver takes the measure of the other artistically-inclined and supposedly art-loving guests (and himself) in masterly fashion with the help of the prompter's perfect timing. Now and then deliberately hamming it up and stumbling over his own vanity, De Schrijver wends his way between make-believe and real world, fulminating as he goes against everything and everyone that represents only superficiality and almost suffocating with misanthropy and self-hatred. But there is also a good deal of humour. He does this against a wall of reclaimed wood prominently placed mid-stage, which has the effect of making the auditorium small and intimate. The jury applauds the fact that a company that usually performs in small halls has now ventured into the auditorium.
(report of the Dutch Theatre Festival jury)
Yes, said the Burgtheater actor,
getting up and preparing to leave,
and handing the coffee cup he'd emptied
to Mrs Auersberger, who had got up along with him,
how utterly I hate such gatherings
whose only goal is to ruin
everything that means anything to me, to drag through the mud
absolutely everything that has ever meant anything to me.
Actually, what I most aspire to is not peace as such,
as to be truly left in peace.
Yes, I've always said to myself that, if only I had been born
as someone else than the person I am now,
and had become a completely different person
from the one I've actually become,
if I could just have been someone left in peace.
But then of course I shouldn't have been born to my actual parents
and I should have been raised in a completely different setting
in the freedom of nature, such as I would have liked, not in a lack of freedom;
of course, in nature, not in an unnatural setting.
Because we have all been raised in unnaturalness,
in the disastrous madness of unnaturalness,
not only I, who have been suffering from it for a lifetime,
the Burgtheater actor suddenly said, but everyone here, he said and, turning around, he said: you too.
(from Holzfällen by Thomas Bernhard)
After 12 years, actor Damiaan De Schrijver is back on stage with a Thomas Bernhard monologue. He is not literally alone. STAN colleague Jolente De Keersmaeker sits with him on the stage of the Bourla theatre, partly to lend moral support but also as prompter. Thus Brandhout. Een irritatie lovingly displays the art of acting, while Bernhard's text analyzes 'the actor' with a sharp eye and mercilessly dissects the foibles of the artistic milieu.
De Schrijver performs Bernhard monologue , deredactie.be, Karlien Vanhoonacker, 30/01/09
Brandhout. Een irritatie is the first really successful Bernhard production in at least five years, a comedy with the speed and murderousness of a mousetrap, a long monologue which does not become tedious. We owe this to De Schrijver, who gives the performance of his life, but also to Jolente De Keersmaeker who, as the prompter on stage, is silent but often contributes to the play's humour.
A comedy with the speed and murderousness of a mousetrap , De Standaard, Mark Cloostermans, 02/02/09
The more transparently De Schrijver plays with the dramatic construction to have the roles of the first-person narrator, himself and the actor spill over into one another, the more amusing the monologue. The result is mordant, despairing and seductively light.
Delightful tirade against artsy-fartsy yackety-yack , Trouw, Hanny Alkema, 13/02/09
De Schrijver performs Bernhard monologue
A comedy with the speed and murderousness of a mousetrap
De Standaard 02/02/09
Delightful tirade against artsy-fartsy yackety-yack
a performance by Jolente De Keersmaeker, Matthias de Koning and Damiaan De Schrijver
with Damiaan De Schrijver
prompter Jolente De Keermaeker, Sara De Roo or Monica Verhofstadt
lighting design Thomas Walgrave
technique Raf De Clercq, Clive Mitchell, Thomas Vermaercke and Tim Wouters
costumes An D'Huys
translation Monica Verhofstadt
production tg STAN
many thanks to Culturel Centre Kortrijk CK*
premiere 29 January 2009, Toneelhuis, Antwerp (B)
[ Firewood. An irritation ] plays exclusively in proscenium style theatres.