De Onderneming Theatre Company (Belgium)The Notebook
De Onderneming Theatre Company was founded in 1996 on the basis of three separate theatre groups. Their first premiere was Moliere’s Misanthrope, the next – Kipstuck. The Notebook is an adaptation of a novel written by the Hungarian writer Agota Kristof. It is one part of a trilogy telling a story about the life of twins, left by their mother with ‘a grandmother’ during the war, who try to learn how to survive under those new circumstances. It is a continuous ordeal of the lack of sensitivity, specific pragmatism expressed in the words: ‘If you really want to die, we shall cut your throat, set fire to your cottage. We shall do it because you ask for it’.
Having been enchanted by Agota Kristof’s simple and clear narrative the company started their attempts at translating the novel into a theatre language. On one hand they wanted to maintain its form and on the other hand they did not want to stick to the text in a rigid way. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, they kept discovering the right forms to tell the story of two brothers. It seemed difficult to create a performance that would be moving and funny at the same time, which was the company’s objective.
The Notebook is a presentation of the naked truth. You cannot always get there – says Kristof – it hurts tremendously.
We are moved watching the twins on the stage, dressed in white gawky underwear. They stand next to each other, ridiculed by their despotic ‘grandmother’. They became responsible for their life, learning what the situation demands from them. They tell their story as if it concerned somebody else. They speak rationally in an unemotional tone, concentrating on the facts. Their feelings are too unclear. We sense, however, that this dry report, official statements have an undercurrent of desperation.
Although the actors follow the novel’s style, the performance becomes something else than just a story telling. Each scene surprises, the actors often resign from theatre tricks to surprise us with unexpected visual effects.(Marian Buijs)