The Spanish press called it ‘relevant’, ‘prescient’ even ‘prophetic’ (La Vanguardia). Quitt, based on the 1973 play by Austrian political playwright Peter Handke, and adapted for the Teatre Lliure by artistic director Lluís Pascual, was a thoughtful and entertaining piece – yet it was too easy on the audience.
Middle-aged businessman Hermann Quitt savagely monopolises global trade and becomes super rich. He feels anxious about the emptiness of his life. Nevertheless, he continues on his path to world domination and self-destruction. Quitt, played by Eduard Fernández, slides between Jekyll and Hyde with apathetic weariness. His wife, simply ‘Mrs Quitt’ (Míriam Iscla), accompanies him like a free sample does a product. An incorrigible consumer, she struggles to string a sentence together.
Glitzy and lurid, the set, like a stage star’s dressing room from the 1930s, compares Quitt’s pseudo world with the hyper-real one of theatre. The plot unfolds An Inconvenient Truth-meets-Inside Job style, via a series of Powerpoint presentations projected onto a massive screen. Competing with this alluring backdrop, characters deliver soliloquies rather than converse with each other, as if human relationships were inconsequential when set against the moneymaking glamour of mechanisation, digitalisation, the fakery of it becoming larger than they are.
Yet for all the contemporary touches, – even the donning of a V for Vendetta mask, the adoptive symbol of the indignados, by a would-be assassin near the end – Handke’s play feels dated, with opportunities lost to tackle some of the more critical paradoxes of the current situation. Perhaps this isn’t the play to do that, but what, then, are we being told that we don’t already know? Perhaps Quitt, for all its cleverness, rendered the audience in too passive a position. Reassured of our impotence as manipulated consumers, its final solution felt a bit too convenient.
Quitt is on until Feb 26 at the Teatre Lliure. The play is in Catalan. There are surtitles in English and Spanish on Thursday at 8.30 and Saturday at 10pm.