A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction

Floor Houwink ten Cate, Annelinde Bruijs, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Frascati Producties

An energy-efficient play about life and extinction

A dramaturge takes over a play from an actress who has to go to her dying mother. She takes the audience into the grand story of the emergence of life on our planet and the extinction of many animal and plant species.

Drawing both on her personal ideas and on scientific research, she gives voice to our shared anxiety and despair about the world’s situation and connects the death of the mother with the fear of humankind disappearing.

An energy-efficient play about life and extinction

A dramaturge takes over a play from an actress who has to go to her dying mother. She takes the audience into the grand story of the emergence of life on our planet and the extinction of many animal and plant species.

Drawing both on her personal ideas and on scientific research, she gives voice to our shared anxiety and despair about the world’s situation and connects the death of the mother with the fear of humankind disappearing.

In her search for a way to make theatre in a responsible, energy-efficient way, theatre director Katie Mitchell developed a concept for a piece where only the text and a set of rules for the performance go on the road. The piece is performed with a local cast and crew in each country. One of the rules is that all the energy used for the performance has to be generated in a way that the audience can see.

At the Holland Festival, it is up to director Floor Houwink ten Cate to realise this challenging concept in an original and smart way. Actress Joy Wielkens plays the role of dramaturge and brings the disconcerting text to life. It is the intention of author Miranda Rose Hall and director Katie Mitchell that the text be adapted as much as possible to the local situation by the local translator and creators. With their permission, the original text has therefore been adapted by Houwink ten Cate and provided with text contributions by Wielkens. 

Opera composer and singer Annelinde Bruijs is composing the show. Floor Houwink ten Cate and Annelinde Bruijs are working continuously on a new, socio-political opera form in which they question the classical notions of opera and transform them into large, vulnerable and political gestures.

Director Floor Houwink ten Cate has brought together a group of twelve feminine voices to tell the story: lead Joy Wielkens, composer Annelinde Bruijs, percussionist Meiyi Lee and a choir consisting of eight women and a non-binary person.

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dates

Fri June 17 8:30 PM

Sat June 18 8:30 PM

Sun June 19 8:30 PM

Prices

  • default € 25
  • CJP/student € 12

language & duration

  • Dutch

  • 1 hour 15 minutes (zonder pauze)

There is some flickering light in the performance.

Background

In 2012, the British director Katie Mitchell decided to stop flying and has made six pieces about climate change since. ‘I made this decision, as a citizen, because I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say: “I did something. I took action.”’ 

There is some flickering light in the performance.

Background

In 2012, the British director Katie Mitchell decided to stop flying and has made six pieces about climate change since. ‘I made this decision, as a citizen, because I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say: “I did something. I took action.”’ 

For the first version of A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction, she staged an eco-feminist monologue by Miranda Rose Hall that reflects on our responsibilities and means of action in the face of an ecological disaster. She chose this text from an American playwright as she shares an artistic and social awareness at the intersection of feminism and eco-activism with her.

Mitchell’s approach extends the play’s ecological concerns beyond the scope of the drama and explores ways of creating a future for theatre that is ecologically responsible, both in its technical implementation and its touring model. For instance, the audience is able to see how the power consumed by the piece is generated on the spot.

Travelling concept

Instead of touring this production (which would require lots of flying), only Mitchell’s concept will be going round the world. A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction is the first instalment in the Sustainable Theatre? project in which makers explore ways of making theatre in a sustainable manner. Mitchell has integrated the ecological impact of her piece into its purpose and form, experimenting with a different way of conceiving all the aspects that make up a piece of theatre: technical, economic, cultural, local. The piece will tour in script form and will be re-staged during each tour and performed by a team of local artists.

Eerie monologue

The performance of an environmental play is cancelled at the last minute, and the production dramaturge is asked to explain what has happened, which results in an eerie monologue. Rather than sticking to a script with which she no longer quite agrees, the dramaturge decides to improvise her own unique eco-dramaturgical production. The dramaturge takes us on a journey through time from the beginning of the world until today, articulating our shared fears and despair about the climate emergency. Drawing on her personal reflections as well as her scientific research, she invites us to reflect on the world that surrounds us and the unrelenting, man-made destruction we are now facing. Sharing her own memories of connectedness and inviting the audience to contribute theirs, she asks: what does it mean to be alive, together, in a time of extinction? The storyline - the fictional dramaturge’s decision to step onto the stage and give voice to her reflections - resonates with the entire theatrical institution’s necessary re-evaluation in light of the climate emergency.

The Dutch interpretation

For the Holland Festival, a local cast and crew will take the concept and put their own spin on it. The text remains intact, though translator Jibbe Willems has slightly adapted it to the new setting. The music is the result of a collaboration with singer and composer Annelinde Bruijs. Director Floor Houwink ten Cate has brought together a group of twelve feminine voices to tell the story: lead Joy Wielkens, composer Annelinde Bruijs, percussionist Meiyi Lee and a choir consisting of eight women and a non-binary person.

Eco-feminism

Though Houwink Ten Cate feels a concept like eco-feminism is not easily defined, she finds it important to put the focus on women and the female perspective in this piece: ‘I really felt that this script was by and about a woman.’ Besides: ‘Women are the ones giving birth to life and keeping the world turning, and I want to show how much energy this takes. It’s a kind of workout opera’. The piece appears to contrast the mourning for a person with the mourning of entire species. They are different forms of mourning: one can be felt, the other is too large to fathom. But Houwink Ten Cate is adamant it is not all catastrophizing: ‘Attitudes need to change: it’s going wrong now, but we can certainly achieve something through collective efforts!’

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  • A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction - Annelinde Bruijs

    © Annelinde Bruijs

  • A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction - Joy Wielkens © Karen Scheffers

    © Karen Scheffers

  • A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction - Floor Houwink Ten Cate © Eva Roe

    © Eva Roefs

  • © Bas de Brouwer

  • © Bas de Brouwer

  • © Bas de Brouwer

  • © Bas de Brouwer

credits

text Miranda Rose Hall concept, original direction Katie Mitchell direction Floor Houwink ten Cate composition Annelinde Bruijs cast Joy Wielkens percussion Mei Yi Lee choir Anat Spiegel, Annelinde Bruijs, Joy Delphi, Khadija Massaoudi, Michline Plukker, Oriana Mangala Ikomo Wanga, Renée de Gruijl, Sarafina Paulina Bonita, Serin Utlu, Valerie Jane Julian Maiwald, Akelei Loos, Paul Clark, Elisha Millard set construction Merijn Versnel costume design Rebekka Wörmann translation Jibbe Willems dramaturgy Berthe Spoelstra technique Floris Vermist dramaturgy (original) Ntando Cele production Holland Festival coproduction Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Frascati Producties, R.B. Jérôme Bel (Parijs), Réseau des Théâtres en Transition:  Dramaten Stockholm, MC2/Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, National Theater & Concert Hall, Taipei, NTGent, Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa, Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, Théâtre de Liège, Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, National Theatre of Croatia Zagreb, Slovene National Theatre Maribor, Trafo

This performance is made possible by