Noel Witts - Professor of Performing Arts

Zholdak Mefisto Uppsala

October 14, 2011

Just back from seeing the run of Andriy Zholdak’s ‘Mefisto’, being shown at the State Theatre in Uppsala, Sweden. Zholdak, as usual, has taken a text – in this case Klaus Mann’s 1936 novel “Mephisto” – and torn it apart for its thoughts and themes, ending up with an extreme but hypnotic series of images of power, sexuality, ambiguity, craven obsequiousness, and theatrical cliche, which are all part of Mann’s dissection of an actor – Gustav Grundgens, though re-titled Hendrik Hofgen in the novel – and his fate and fall in the Nazi Germany of Hitler and Goering. The piece is at times either vicious or sometimes beautifully quiet, and has some of the characteristic Zholdak images – stuffed animals,  a confining glass box, much repetition – but, as usual, the whole is greater than its parts and once again shows us what an imagistic master Zholdak is. His work falls between categories – sometimes it can be seen as a  play, but more often a set of visual/aural reflections on the text – and this is what makes his work unique in contemporary theatre. Here is a theatre artist who uses theatre not to interpret but to awake us viscerally for two hours. Of course audiences will come out asking what was going on, but visual people will have no problem with the way in which Zholdak manipulates his material and his performers. I hope the good people of Uppsala will recognise what they have in their local theatre, and fill it every night, as audiences in Finland have done with his “Anna Karenina”. I hope , also , that the performers  also see their crucial role in pushing forward the boundaries of what theatre can do in the hands of a visual master. See it, Uppsala!

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    Several years ago John Theocharis and I made a BBC Radio 3 documentary about the redoubtable Barbara,

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    "Demarco's Travels"  is an ambulant performance devised for this year's Edinburgh fringe at the Summerhall

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    BUXTON FESTIVAL, 2013 This is this the first Buxton festival under the direction of Stephen Barlow
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2011

December

    The response to Vaclav Havel's death outside the Czech and Slovak republics has been a strange mixture

November

October

    Just back from seeing the run of Andriy Zholdak's 'Mefisto', being shown at the State Theatre in Uppsala,
    Sally-Anne Kelly, an MA student from Central St.Martins, London, has just finished digitalising most
    Sad to hear of Dragan's death - one of the most interesting and combative theatre intellectuals I have
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    Heard last week of the death of Linda, one of he founders of the Performing Arts degree course at Leicester

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    Just been present at a Kantor show at Rose Bruford College, London, where third year students were directed

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