tg STAN - blijf / weg

Separation causes suffering, but staying together can mean mutual destruction. The partners in Plumes de bécasse , a novella by the Greek writer Thanassis Valtinos, cheerfully wring each other's neck with words.

In the run-up to that inevitable tirade, Frank Vercruyssen and Tine Embrechts first choose a milder marital argument from Michael Frayn's Here. As husband and wife they look round a potential new home. What does she think? What does he think? And what does she think he should think, so that he can see it from her point of view? In no time at all, and with the sweetest smile the two actors are embroiled in an absurd metadiscussion about words like "what". It could well be a De Koe opening.

But once the new marriage bed is made, all the implicit cover-up gives way to a mud-slinging free-for-all. With Valtinos the only thing they do not reveal is their war strategy; for the rest it is open warfare. The wife is a listless bedspread for her husband and children, whereas he prefers the café to the domestic unpleasantness. But she will screw, shouts the husband, because that is her marital duty! The more flagrant the abuse, the louder the laughter in the auditorium. If theatre serves a socio-therapeutic purpose, here you see it at work at full throttle.

But what is deeply tragic, because it is all too familiar, is the banality of the arguments that make up their constant sparring match. Valtinos armed the wife with fewer allegations so Embrechts constantly has to save her face with a blunt "Go to hell!" She does that magnificently like a lava-filled apron of ice, like a jukebox with only one record. Vercruyssen looses it with equal conviction. Blijf / weg may be thin in terms of subject matter, but Stan's performance is very full-on. At the end the couple really manages to hit where it hurts - by saying nothing. Words may hurt, but the sharpest sword is silence.

De Morgen, Wouter Hillaert, November 20th 2008