Éric Didry Old Masters (comedy)
by Thomas Bernhard[Theatre]
Thomas Bernhard’s penultimate novel is a liberating comedy which overturns everything in its passage, and in particular certain monuments of European culture - ranging from Beethoven to Heidegger, and from Veronese to Klimt. Accompanied by Éric Didry et Véronique Timsit, Nicholas Bouchaud brings out all of its relevance, whilst highlighting its acute observations about artistic transmission and heritage.
At Vienna’s Museum of Art History, the paths of three characters cross, and with it their thoughts on art, childhood, the Catholic State, the dirty condition of Viennese toilets, grief and even the music industry, that “true mass-murderer of humanity”... These three voices come together as one in a piece full of outbursts, ranging from the enraged, to the burlesque and the erudite. Little by little, the satire gives way to a family-based novel, consisting of the fictive biographies of the characters, interspersed with pages from their journals of mourning. How can we rid ourselves of our different forms of inheritance, from the collective to the intimate, in order to live in the present - whilst recognizing, at the same time, the undeniable hold they still exercise on us? How can we avoid turning the masters of the past into museum pieces? Drawing on a wide range of influences ranging from the Dada movement to Johnny Rotten, the show enquires into the essence of an artistic gesture that represents a clean break with all that precedes it. The staging blurs the distinction between the audience and the stage in order to better include them in the journey the words take. Indeed, what the Old Masters invite us to do is to get off the beaten track of the everything we take for granted. This radical approach to life and art is, above all, an open invitation to joy and a promise of emancipation.