Mefisto for ever

by Tom Lanoye, librement adapté de "Mephisto" de Klaus Mann

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The 2007 archive

Guy Cassiers


Mefisto for ever © Christophe Raynaud de Lage / Festival d'Avignon


Having studied graphic art and having a passion for etching, Guy Cassiers, as a stage director since the early 1980s, has continued to want to manufacture images. To do that he uses all the new types of medium available, but especially video. He prefers literary adaptations to purely dramatic texts and has thus journeyed through the works of Marguerite Duras, Salman Rushdie and Marcel Proust to whom he devoted a series of four productions between 2002 and 2004, and of Jeroen Brouwers whose Rouge Décanté (Sunken Red) was performed at the Avignon Festival in 2006.
In unusual venues, with teams of artists made up of actors, plastic artists and scenographers, he stages both in The Netherlands and in Flanders in Belgium, productions which often revolve around memories. Director of the Ro Theater in Rotterdam from 1998 to 2006, he was then appointed as director of the Theatre of Antwerp, the Toneelhuis, where he heads a collective of six creative artists, including Benjamin Verdonck, who is part of the premiere production Nine Finger also performing at the Avignon Festival this year. He chose to stage an adaptation of the novel by Klaus Mann, Mefisto for ever as the opening show of his first season in Antwerp.

Novelist, poet, lecturer, columnist and stage-writer, Tom Lanoye likes to surprise people. An enfant terrible of the Flemish flatlands, this hot-headed forty-nine year-old fights against hypocrisy in all its forms as well as against corruption, in particular the sort that affects the mind in a region where racism and the extreme-right wing is seen as a real threat.
Highly sarcastic and quite self-deprecating, he has read poems in a show called Les Deux Dernières Grandes Promesses Poétiques Juste Avant La Troisième Guerre Mondiale (The Two Last Big Promises Just Before the Third World War).
Author of many plays, he became well-known outside of Flanders for an adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical tragedies which he rolled into one big play and which toured in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in the Czech Republic. He wrote Mamma Médéa inspired by the plays of Appolonios and of Euripides, then Fort Europa just before his last production Mefisto for ever for the Toneelhuis in Antwerp. This is the first of Tom Lanoye's plays to be performed in France.

Klaus Mann wrote his novel Mephisto in 1936, and at its centre he placed a talented actor, strongly inspired by the actor and director Gustav Gründgens, carried away by the torment of Nazism, refusing to make choices and putting stage art first, no matter what the cost, at a time when an apocalypse was looming. Guy Cassiers, to inaugurate his term as Director of the Toneel-huis, called on Tom Lanoye to write a play based on the plot of this novel. Mefisto for ever is not then an adaptation as such, but an original dramatic work in its' own right. Created just at the time when the Flemish far-right was poised to win the Antwerp mayoral elections, the author composed a work which is not Manichean and which refrains from diabolizing the devil, preferr-ing instead to hunt out that part of the devil which lurks inside each person, thus asking the fundamental question about the political role of the artist.
Guy Cassiers stages a nuanced kind of theatre, exploring fear, ambiguity and contradiction, rejecting lampoonist-type theatre in black and white. The theatre here is every sort of theatre – of course for actors, but also the theatre of politics, namely Goebbels and Göring, in the guise of “Boiteux” (Hobbledy) and “Gros” (Fatso), who make use of all their talents and abuse all means of pressure to get this actor, beloved by the audience, to collaborate. Some people's fascincation for others, the confrontation of play and of power become essential to the presentation. Using extracts from works of the greatest masters of drama such as Shakespeare, Chekhov or Goethe, enclosing all his protagonists within the walls of the stage, Guy Cassiers rolls out the path of a man who, in refusing to choose, in cutting himself off from the world outside his theatre, loses his own personality and becomes nothing more than the words spoken by his characters. Dirk Roofthooft, who tackled the monologue in Rouge Décanté (Sunken Red) performed at the Avignon Festival in 2006, embodies magnificently the role of the actor in this Mefisto for ever.


mise en scène :Guy Cassiers
texte :Tom Lanoye d'après le roman de Klaus Mann
avec :Gilda De Bal, Josse De Pauw, Vic De Wachter, Abke Haring, Dirk Roofthooft, Stefan Perceval, Ariane van Vliet, Katelijne Verbeke
dramaturgie :Erwin Jans
scénographie :Marc Warning
lumières :Enrico Bagnoli
décor sonore :Diederik De Cock
vidéo :Arjen Klerkx
costumes :Tim Van Steenbergen
assistante à la mise en scène: Lutje Lievens
assistant à la dramaturgie: Peter Seynaeve
assistante aux costumes :Mieke van Buggenhout
administration :Michaël Greweldinger


production :Toneelhuis (Anvers)
avec le soutien :des autorités flamandes

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