WHAT’S ON? Tragèdies Romanes (Roman Tragedies) Toneelgroep Amsterdam

Teatre Lliure Montjuic, July 6th – 7th, 2013

With the Egyptian mess splashed all over the media, you don’t need to have read William Shakespeare’s triple-political-whammy of Roman tragedies, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, in any language, to feel a familiar sense of involvement yet distance, shock yet predictability, a sense of being informed yet remaining completely ignorant as to what’s going on in this epic, blinding production of Tragèdies Romanes.

Tragèdies romanes (Romeinse tragedies) by Toneelgroep Amsterdam dir. Ivo van Hove

Yep, the three plays are performed back-to-back. Yep, it’s six hours long with no real interval. Yep, it’s all in Shakespearean Dutch with Catalan sur- and subtitles. Nope, it’s not what you expect. Performed by theatre company Toneelgroep Amersterdam and on at Barcelona’s Teatre Lliure (Montjuic) as part of the Grec Festival, if you happen to be Dutch or speak Dutch, or should your Catalan be up to reading it fast, go. This is so good.


Class, individualism, public vs. private, military vs. politics, economic stress vs. ambition, the sweep-away-bloke-in-power power of a fickle public … you could argue to death what these plays are about. Which is exactly the point. Suddenly, all that XXII BCE crap seems dramatically relevant, as all the alienating discomforts of going to the theatre are tossed. The message of these plays, whatever it might be, is enhanced by their delivery in a audiovisual language that we understand: that of flashy telly and 24hr news, silly Twittery sound-bites, stimulating shocks and disconcerting bangs – does real time actually make news real? The authority of all media ‘information’ is put into question.

Tragèdies romanes (Romeinse tragedies) by Toneelgroep Amsterdam dir. Ivo van Hove

The audience isn’t an audience, exactly, cause you can come and go as you like, pop to the toilet, wander around the stage – which is more of a TV studio, perhaps, or a hotel lobby, where snacks and drinks are served (at a cost) by an obsequious team of handsome waiters, where you can message your mates, plant a pic on some site … become a literal backdrop to the action … or, maybe, a protagonist as the action goes on around, behind, despite you.


It sounds like chaos but it’s slick as hell. And while on stage you might catch less of the plays than watching them from the front, again, this is the point. For the way in which you might pick up the plot is the way we might stick together the news: by image and rumour, flashes and bangs. Think you’re informed? See this production and think again.

Roman Tragedies 3
Tragèdies romanes is on July 6th and 7th at 6pm to midnight
The plays are in Dutch with Catalan sur- and subtitles
Grec Festival 2013 at the Teatre Lliure
Tickets €32 Click here for a tick.

BIG THANKS to Anna Aurich.