The Andersen ProjectWednesday, 20. May 2009
Right now, there are the Festwochen in Vienna, the yearly theater festival, which lasts about five weeks and brings international productions of various plays, shows, performance etc. to Austria. I got some tickets again this year (and some other theatre stuff is coming up), so there will be more reviews like this in the coming weeks.
The Andersen Project is a one man show about a Canadian writer who comes to Paris to write an opera for young adults about Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale The Dryad. Yves Jacques alternately plays the writer – Frederic -and the Opera Director and a graffiti sprayer.
Frederic comes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of sixteen years. He swaps apartments with a friend who goes to Canada for rehab. The apartment is in the same building as a peep show, he has to take care of a neurotic dog and he doesn’t even get an office to write his libretto – he has to do it at home.
The Opera Director is busy, busy, busy. He hardly ever sees his daughter, he’s addicted to porn and his wife cheats on him with his best friend.
These two are connected by the play and the invariably complicated intricacies that is the European Union’s Culture Cooperations.
The story moves effortlessly between being funny, tender, pessimistic, harsh and sad. It really is two hours of very good show and well worth the tickets. Strongly recommended.
The show has some multimedia elements, but they’re only supporting actors to Yves Jacques’s incredible performance. The show’s two hours long, without any intermission and Jacques is constantly on stage, morphing seemingly effortless from one character into the next.
The writing is excellent – the “dialogues” are funny, the characters well-rounded. There are a lot of jabs in the general direction of culture cooperatives and the whole culture business.
But there’s also an incredibly tender side to everything – when Jacques as Hans Christian Andersen slowly undresses a mannequin (who stands for Jenny Lind), his actions are full of longing, and also surprisingly erotic.
Then there is the story of the Dryad, which is in best Andersen tradition, really sad and is told in chapters throughout the play.
But probably my favourite scene was the Opera Director telling his daughter a good night story - The Shadow by Andersen of course. Not only is the story itself wonderful, but Jacques tells it perfectly. And with the expert use of a lamp, his shadow does come alive and tells the story with him.
[And this is shortly after a scene where the Opera Director visits the peep show and starts wanking.]
I also really liked this one graffity they did – it’s the metro station “Invalides”. The sprayer gets out of the tube and starts spraying the words “mais pas sans valeur” underneath the sign. Wonderful. [Translation: "Invalids - but not without value"]
The play was in English and French (with German subtitles). I was rather glad about the subtitles. Even though I had no problem understanding the English, he talked French so freaking fast that I only got half of it.
[On a small sidenote: It must be incredibly irritating to act in a show with subtitles - the audience' reactions are just never at the right point, usually, they're just a tad late.]
Anyways, summarising this whole thing: If you get the chance to see it, do it.