Is silence really golden?

How free are we or do we allow ourselves to be? The short story Wir töten Stella (We murder Stella) by the Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer may date from 1958 - a period when it was not so easy for a woman to leave her husband -, but what she really shows is how difficult it is to free oneself mentally. Actor Natali Broods (STAN) adapted the text for the stage and performs a monologue for the first time.

Giving away the ending

Girl is taken into family, has an affair with the man of the house, wife pretends she doesn't see anything, girl throws herself under lorry. Those who go and see the monologue Het was zonder twijfel een ongeluk (It must have been an accident) are given plot and denouement up front; this is because the play is more concerned with the underlying emotions than with the plot.

Actor Natali Broods gives her monologue a more suggestive title than the book Wir töten Stella . How guilty are we if we look on passively? Broods plays the part of the wife struggling with remorse after the 'accident', and yet she still allows life to take its course. Resigned, she watches a chick in the linden tree cheeping in vain for its mother. Even now she won't intervene. She stands there and looks on.

Detached v. personal

Broods relates the story with equally neutral detachment, the words tripping off her tongue. She is indifferent, resigned. But there is also a note of self-mockery when she says dryly: "A woman over the age of thirty shouldn't have to suffer; it's not good for her looks". The punctuations are not in the script, but lie with the bizarre changes of light and disquieting choreographies which keep the spectator from sympathizing and empathizing with a story, as if Broods wants to say: "No you're not going to listen to a story, you're going to listen to my story."

She glides across the floor like a rag doll: when her character is unable to express her feelings, Broods gives free rein to her own emotions in movement, slipping below the calm water where it moves in eddies. In rather the same way as the whispering at the start of a cover version of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game turns to screaming. The inside is turned outside. Not that it is to any avail: the woman is still blocked at the end of the play and Broods is wedged between the two sofas on the stage. The chick has gone from the tree, probably dead. It must have been an accident.

Knack, Liv Laveyne, October 10th, 2007