The violence in Shakespeare’s plays makes Tarantino look like “a little angel.” Says Erwin Jans, playwright of Billy’s Violence, the show by the prestigious Belgian company Needcompany, directed by the great Jan Lauwers and with the incorporation of Catalan actors such as Nao Albert, which opens on Thursday at the Sala Gran del Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (TNC) as part of the program of the Grec festival in Barcelona (until Sunday). And that is Billy’s Violence a radical distillate, “in which there are hardly the words, words, words of Shakespeare,” says Jans, and in its tragedies the meat is separated until it leaves the bone, as the author of the text, Victor Lauwers, explained this Tuesday. What a different proposal when the spectator of the Grec still has Peter Brook’s Shakespeare in his mind and heart.
In total, there are ten tragedies that make up, extremely reworked, the montage, since Victor Lauwers, son of Jan Lauwers, has left out Coriolano, Triolo and Cresida Y Helm of Athens, of which it says that it happens. In all the others, the great and famous tragedies, the young writer has entered the bag, reducing them to what he considers the essentiality of his violence, in a “multidisciplinary and meta-theatrical outbreak” ―with much sound and fury, what the Scotsman would say, and we’ll see how much it means – in which the female characters mainly resonate. Victor Lauwers has warned that no one expects to hear Shakespeare’s great monologues and quotes, as they may feel frustrated, and has asked to come with an open mind and not expecting “to be or not to be.”
Billy’s ViolenceIts creators explained at a press conference this Tuesday, it was born when Jan Lauwers considered doing something with the most brutal scenes of Shakespeare’s tragedies and encouraged Jans and his son to join him to write a text, dividing the works. In view of what Victor Lauwers did with Romeo and Juliet, reducing the tragedy to a dialogue between the two protagonists, they decided that he should write it all down. For Victor Lauwers (with an earring in his left ear that gives him a very Elizabethan look), Shakespeare “is a monumental beast“, A monumental beast,” with which we have been bombarded for centuries “and in which no one can really be a specialist. Based on their tragedies they have made “a controversial and provocative show” based on the “quite crazy” idea of concentrating all these works in a single evening and extracting just one of the many layers that Shakespeare’s creations offer (love, history, etc.), which is that of violence, with all its sang i fetge, her tremendousness, to reflect on her. “If you put everything else aside, what remains in any tragedy is a rotten body,” reflected Victor Lauwers. They have put aside the violence of war to focus on “the violence of intimacy, the most homemade brutality.”
The show is divided into parts that correspond to each tragedy and are named after a woman. Victor Lauwers has made a true deconstruction of the works, redirecting their prominence. Thus, in Othello the central character (and the title) becomes Desdemona. “Othello, get out; what interests me is not the ethnic issue or jealousy, but the concept of vulnerability, and the fact that she does not understand what all this is about, not even when her husband murders her ”. In the same way, Hamlet’s tragedy becomes Ophelia’s, “who succumbs to siege and paternalism.” Lear is confronted with Cordelia, Porcia is the center of Julius Caesar and not this one, or Brutus, and of Titus Andronicus there remains “the mutilation and rape of a woman.” Especially interesting is the treatment of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, in whose version (Cleopatra), the “bombastic and confused” Roman general suffers from a disorder similar to “brain fog”, the memory loss caused by covid. The issue then is the language problems between a cultured woman, the queen, and the obtuse Marco Antonio. Lauwers father and son have stressed the influence on the gestation of the show that the pandemic has had and how another plague, the plague, affected Shakespeare’s original creation.
Billy’s Violence, co-production with several bands in which they intervene Grec, TNC, Teatro Español, Central de Sevilla and Belgian centers, represents, as Cesc Casadesús and Xavier Albertí, directors respectively of Grec and TNC, the fulfillment of “a dream for 25 years” which was to get Needcompany, a company who has repeatedly visited our country, and Jan Lauwer will work with actors from here. The show is performed by a mixed group of Catalan and Belgian company actors: Nao Albert, Grace Ellen Barkey, Gonzalo Cunill, Martha Gardner, Romy Louise Lauwers, Juan Navarro, Maarten Seghers and Meron Verbelen.
For Albert, working with Needcompany and Jan Lauwers is “an extraordinary journey”, and also a dream come true. The actor has especially highlighted the multidisciplinary mix of theater, dance and show music and has considered that the way of working of the Belgian company is unusual in our country and it is necessary to learn from their courage.