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Roman tragedies

Ivo van Hove, Toneelgroep Amsterdam

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Roman tragedies has been an unprecedented success since its world premiere at the Holland Festival in 2007. Ivo van Hove’s revolutionary stage adaptation of three Shakespeare tragedies (Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Anthony  & Cleopatra) returns to Amsterdam, and plays in the Royal Theatre Carré. This co-production by Toneelgroep Amsterdam and the Holland Festival is a thrilling multimedia show, in which the dark side of politics is exposed in all its ambiguity and drama. The audience mixes with the actors on stage and in the wings. It is possible to eat and drink on stage, and comment live on social media. This is your last chance to see this masterpiece.

background information

The Roman tragedies, a co-production with the Holland Festival, had its premiere during an earlier edition of the festival, in June 2007. In this marathon piece, Ivo van Hove stages three plays by 


Shakespeare - Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra – as one continuous performance about the world of politics in all its complexity. Eleven years later, having toured the world with great success, the production returns to the Holland Festival for its final performance, this time in a new location: the arena of the Carré theatre. 

Shakespeare’s three Roman tragedies allow Van Hove to examine the political game from a number of different perspectives. Van Hove: ‘Politics is about human actions and out attempts to shape society; together, we try to get a grip on problems facing us and to influence the course of events. A network of opinions sets the wheels of change in motion, overthrowing institutions in a process that carries on continuously.’

Coriolanus takes place during the rise of the Roman republic. The eponymous hero refuses to submit to the altered political constellation. He defies the masses and their new representatives and is banished. Ultimately he takes up arms against Rome, his own city.

By contrast, a virtuoso talent for manipulating the masses is exactly what brings Julius Caesar to power. A number of politicians fear this will lead to a dictatorship and remove him in order to save democracy; only by then it turns out to be too late to reverse the altered political climate.

In Antonius & Cleopatra global politics and the passionate love affair between the Roman Antony and Egyptian Cleopatra become intertwined. Antony’s inner conflict between public responsibility and his heart’s desire eventually results in a bloodbath.

The Roman tragedies are Shakespeare’s most political works. Unlike the English history plays they are not about the lust for power; instead, the focus is on political mechanisms and the social context. Without starting from a preconceived standpoint, Shakespeare describes the causes and effects of political structures in a changing society. Three times in succession, we are shown the rise and fall of a politician, along with his ideals and underlying personal motives.

In Van Hove’s Roman tragedies the audience finds itself in the middle of a political arena, in which the production is played out non-stop. Spectators can move freely in and out, change seats or take a break as and when they wish, in a meeting area on the stage, where drinks and snacks are available. The performance is transmitted live on screens in different locations throughout the theatre. The audience can decide for themselves what they want to look at and which character they want to focus on.


Toneelgroep Amsterdam is a regular co-producer of the Holland Festival. The theatre group is one of the leading ambassadors of Dutch performing art in the Netherlands and around the world. With 

a brilliant ensemble of world- famous actors and a team of leading directors, it is the in-house company of Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg and performs on stages worldwide. Toneelgroep Amsterdam is led by Ivo van Hove, who has been instrumental in attracting sensational international directors to the group such as Thomas Ostermeier, Johan Simons, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Katie Mitchell, Grzegorz Jarzyna, Luk Perceval and Guy Cassiers, as well as members of a new generation such as Maren E. Bjørseth, Sam Gold and Simon Stone. Productions such as Roman tragedies, The Fountainhead, Kings of War, Husbands and Wives and Obsession premiered at the Holland Festival. 

Ivo van Hove (Belgium, 1958) has been the general director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam since 2001. He started his career as theatre director in 1981 with productions of own works (Ziektekiemen, Geruchten). He then held positions as artistic director at AKT, Akt-Vertikaal and De Tijd. Between 1990 and 2000 he was the head of Het Zuidelijk Toneel. Van Hove was the artistic director of the Holland Festival from 1998 to 2004. Since 1984, he has been one of the artistic leaders of the Dramatic Arts department of the University College Antwerp. 

Van Hove’s productions have been performed in many countries. He has directed companies including the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Staatstheater Stuttgart, the New York Theatre Workshop, La Comédie-Française, the Flemish Opera and the Dutch National Opera. In 2014 he staged the world premiere of the opera Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real. Van Hove directed A View From the Bridge (2015) and The Crucible (2016) on Broadway and Lazarus, by Enda Walsh and David Bowie, in New York and London. 

Under Van Hove’s directorship, Toneelgroep Amsterdam has won prizes for many of its productions, including the marathon performance Roman tragedies, The Taming of the Shrew and Kings of war (all based on Shakespeare), Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and John Cassavetes' Husbands and Opening Night.

Van Hove has received many accolades, including two Obie Awards for off-Broadway productions in New York (for More Stately Mansions and Hedda Gabler). He was made a knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2004. In 2007 he received the prize awarded by Dutch theatre critics and in 2008 he also received the Prosceniumprijs, the Dutch oeuvre prize, together with Jan Versweyveld, his stage designer for many years. In 2012, he received the Amsterdam Business Oeuvre Award and in 2016 the Amsterdam Art prize. In 2016, Van Hove won two Tony Awards, two Drama League Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Grands Prix de la Critique. King Philippe of Belgium appointed him Commander of the Order of the Crown and he received the Flemish Culture Prize for Cultural Merit in 2015.



William Shakespeare
Ivo van Hove
Tom Kleijn
Alexander Schreuder, Bart Van den Eynde, Jan Peter Gerrits
scenography, light
Jan Versweyveld
Eric Sleichim
Tal Yarden
Lies van Assche
Alwin Pulinckx, Bart Slegers, Chris Nietvelt, Eelco Smits, Fred Goessens, Frieda Pittoors, Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Hans Kesting, Harm Duco Schut, Hélène Devos, Hugo Koolschijn, Janni Goslinga, Maria Kraakman, Marieke Heebink
Bl!ndman [drums]:
Hannes Nieuwlaet, Ruben Cooman, Christiaan Saris, Yves Goemaere
assistent direction
Matthias Mooij
assistent scenography
Ramón Huijbrechts
assistent music
Ief Spincemaille
casting advices
Hans Kemna
head technique & production
Wolf-Götz Schwörer
production management
Edith den Hamer
hair & make-up
David Verswijveren
Toneelgroep Amsterdam
Bl!ndman, De Munt/La Monnaie, Holland Festival, Kaaitheater, Muziektheater Transparant

This performance was made possible with support by