December 4, 2016
Nachtelijk Symposium (Nocturnal Symposium)
Mesut Arslan’s approach to Nachtelijk Symposium (Nocturnal Symposium), a 1994 play by Eric De Volder, is very special. De Volder describes the Meiresonnes, who are anything but a model family. After years of sweeping everything under the carpet, things start to emerge. Three sons and a mother play out a dramatic sparring match around the ‘family business’ and ‘him upstairs, our dad.’
A mother, three sons and an absent father move around together with spinning tops in a wooden installation by the artist Lawrence Malstaf: in the new KVS production Nachtelijk Symposium, the director Mesut Arslan explores the boundaries of communication.
Linear versus circular
Arslan seeks out the difference between a linear and a circular life: ‘Linear is the static, the rational: thinking, planning, ordering, categorising, making deliberate choices. Circular means heart, instinct, emotions, the unconscious, and movement.’
‘People have evolved from circular to linear beings,’ according to Arslan. ‘It has to do with prosperity, always wanting to go further, the pursuit of progress. But our needs, instincts and emotions are in fact circular. Hunger, sleep, sex: these needs always recur. Prosperity does not help us satisfy them. Prosperity allows us to live more comfortably, but has also deprived us of the need to dream. Man has both the linear and the circular in him, but here in the West we have lost the balance. Belgium is right at the extreme of this linear thinking. Planning everything. Reason prevails.’
Lots of words are used in Nachtelijk Symposium, but little is actually said. Everything happens below the surface, between the lines and the words. ‘We in the West, and that includes me, have put our thinking in a straight line. We stick to a timeline, always straight ahead. In this way we shut out a lot of emotion and no longer follow our intuition. Text is linear. What churns around underneath is circular. I keep the text linear, but open up circular spaces around it,’ the director tells us.
The wooden set, the spinning tops, and the audience – who sit in a circle around the arena – break down this linear action. By using this installation with its spinning tops, Nachtelijk Symposium becomes much more than a matter of watching and listening: in this way the tragedy lapses into a daily ritual.
Hero versus anti-hero
We don’t hate Mondays, we hate capitalism.
Mesut Arslan: ‘The play revolves round the absent father, who holds his family in an iron grip, even though he only makes his appearance at the end of the story. This is not only Flemish, but universal. Anyone who reads the play will immediately think that the father is the worst person in the world. I see it differently. Hollywood films are about heroes and anti-heroes, but that’s not my subject. In the course of history, systems have harmed people more than people have harmed each other. I want to expose that in this production.’
Nachtelijk Symposium is the first KVS production by Mesut Arslan and is based on the play by the acclaimed stage director and playwright Eric De Volder (d. 2010). He is also the person behind Platform 0090 and is involved in the Kamyon production.
This article uses quotes taken from Tuur Devens’ interview for Akrostis (first quarter of 2017).
KVS Face Mesut Arslan is also founder of platform 0900 and he is collaborating on the production Kamyon.
CONCEPT & DIRECTION Mesut Arslan AUTHOR Eric De Volder TOPS & ARENA Lawrence Malstaf DRAMATURGY Ata Unal STAGE DESIGN Lawrence Malstaf & Meryem Bayram WITH Bernard Van Eeghem, Ina Geerts, Yves De Pauw, Lotte Diependaele, Gokhan Girginol, Junior Mthombeni & Eric Thielemans LIGHTING DESIGN Jan Maertens BLENDING PERCUSSIONIST Eric Thielemans SOUND Stijn Demeulenaere COSTUMES Johanna Trudzinski PRODUCTION KVS & Platform 0090
“Zonder huiskameranekdotiek, in de bizarre context van een arena, komt het stuk ongemeen sterk binnen.”
“Wat het allemaal samen houdt, zijn de acteurs. Ina Geerts en co. jumpen op en over de rand, roepen elkaar bijna ritueel aan, om de ander dan geniepig in de hoek te drijven. Nog meer dan hun tekst zegt hun lijf. Kleine stapjes, zwiepende hoofden, krassende nagels in de vloer: hun spel zoekt dezelfde schurende gelaagdheid als de hele voorstelling.”
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