Review: Uit het leven van marionetten, Rotterdamse Schouwburg


“In de stilte hoor je de waarheid”

In the name of maximising my time in the Netherlands, I’ve seen a fair few productions in Dutch without any linguistic assistance. Thursday night shows at the Stadschouwberg Amsterdam are regularly surtitled in English but I always want to see more. In the case of plays like Blood Wedding and The Maids, I’ve been able to get away with it since I know them; with others, like A Bride in the Morning, it’s been more of a challenge. 

And so it was with Uit het leven van marionetten (From the life of the marionettes), the fifth Ingmar Bergman adaptation from Toneelgroep Amsterdam, helmed by film director Nanouk Leopold in her stage debut. I’d hoped to watch the film in advance but I couldn’t track it down in time and so went into the Schouwburg in Rotterdam armed with just a flimsy synopsis and an overwhelming admiration for a company that included the rather fab Eelco Smits.

So in all honesty, I have to hold my hands up and say a fair amount of what happened passed me by, though the larger picture of how the worst parts of society can inculcate murderous tendencies in people was clear. What I can say is that Leopold’s directorial vision was often stunning, blending her cinematic vision with the power of live theatre in a way that felt very much at home with the Toneelgroep aesthetic whilst still maintaining its own identity.

Eschewing props and filling the space instead with aching silence, and using extended closeups on video or shifting the field of vision entirely. The extraordinary vibrancy of James Farncombe’s lighting design and Donato Wharton’s ruminative, rumbling sound design coming to the fore magnificently. I may not have understood every word but so much was crystal clear from the sheer act of experiencing this piece of theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Henri Verhoef
Booking until 17th November

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