Antonioni Project Barbican Theatre, 1st-5th February
The films of Michelangelo Antonioni, who died in 2007, are strange, disturbing and emotionally volatile—characters locked in sexual and psychic desolation. The Dutch theatre company, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, have created an extraordinary two-and-a-half hour show from the early 1960s trilogy starring Monica Vitti: L’Avventura, La Notte and L’Eclisse. The films elide and overlap with each other, forming a completely original piece of theatre.
This is a great acting ensemble: their visit to the Barbican in November 2009 with their six-hour Shakespearean Roman Tragedies was an innovative landmark in personal-into-political theatre. There is similar use here of video footage and “live” filming of the actors to create an atmosphere of both engagement and alienation.
European auteurs—Bergman, Fellini, Almodóvar—have recently been plundered by the musical stage; this is a different attempt to “theatricalise” cinema, investigating the properties of film while creating a new kind of spectacle. Particularly interesting are the choices Van Hove makes between close-up and long shot: a choice he sometimes allows us to make. It’s a gripping experience and prelude to a fascinating international season, which also includes Robert Lepage’s Ex Machina company from Montreal in The Blue Dragon.