Kings of War

Dir. Ivo van Hove Netherlands
  • 20 / 10 19:00
  • 21 / 10 19:00

The starting point for Kings of War is provided by William Shakespeare’s three historical chronicles: Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III. Van Hove brings together these texts, adapting, rewriting and paraphrasing them in order to present to the audience a very relevant story of the degenerated world of contemporary politics and leaders adopting various strategies in the face of war. Ivo van Hove’s production is also a psychological study; his protagonists constantly face the need to choose between the interests of the country and their own interests and needs. Shakespeare’s tragedies become the starting point for telling a story about the present, for presenting conspiracies, provocations and violence as ways and effects of the operations of those in power. “Leadership is one of the most important issues we are dealing with in the 21st century. Its classic forms do not work,” says Ivo van Hove, creating a production about the absurdity and volatility of political power.

A stunning theatrical marathon about power.”
NRC Handelsblad

Ivo van Hove takes Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III and mashes them up into a wonderful study of the modern ruling class.”

Susannah Clapp, The Observer

Never, in this brutally brilliant compression of Shakespeare, are we allowed to forget that politics and death are bloody bedfellows.”

Sam Marlowe, The Times

The production provokes questions about the source and essence of power: what it really is, what or who gives an individual the right to rule. Van Hove successfully eludes banal answers: he shows power in all its strangeness, ambiguity, even absurdity. Consequently, power proves elusive. Why does Henry V have the right to condemn to death his friend, although he is really no different from him? Why is Henry VI, a king, unable to enforce his decisions? Why is Richard III, having undergone the performative act of coronation, not perceived by the audience, by other characters, even by himself as a ruler? Van Hove’s production is, in fact, an anarchist production, because it question the principles fundamental to the social order.”

Tomasz Fryzeł, Didaskalia

director: Ivo van Hove
translation: Rob Klinkenberg
adaptation: Bart van den Eynde, Peter van Kraaij
dramaturgy: Peter van Kraaij
set and lighting designer: Jan Versweyveld
composer: Eric Sleichim
music: Steve Dugardin (countertenor), bl!ndman (brass band): Konstantin Koev, Charlotte van Passen, Daniel Quiles Cascant, Daniel Ruibal Ortigueira
costume designer: An d’Huys
video: Tal Yarden
cast: Hélène Devos, Fred Goessens, Janni Goslinga, Aus Greidanus jr., Marieke Heebink, Robert De Hoog, Hans Kesting, Ramsey Nasr, Chris Nietvelt, Harm Duco Schut, Bart Slegers, Eelco Smits, Leon Voorberg, Minne Koole

commissioned by: Barbican (London), Théâtre National de Chaillot (Paris), Wiener Festwochen
co-producers: bl!ndman, Holland Festival, Muziektheater Transparant
special thanks to: Rabobank Amsterdam
private producers: Harry and Marijke van den Bergh

premiere: 5 June 2015

Ivo van Hove (1958) – Flemish theatre, film and opera director. Since 2001 he has been the director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, one of the most important companies in European theatre. In his theatre van Hove experiments with space and technology, which offer new performance possibilities for actors. He has directed many productions outside Holland. In New York (2015) and in London (2016) he directed Lazarus, a musical on which he worked with David Bowie, and in London he directed Obsession with Jude Law in the leading role. His other recent productions include Salome (De National Opera, 2017), Hedda Gabler (National Theatre, 2016), The Twilight of the Gods (Comédie-Française, 2016). He is well-known to Polish audiences from a production of La voix humaine presented at the Kontakt Festival in Toruń, and Roman Tragedies, Russians!, Cries and Whispers as well as After the Rehearsal/Persona presented during the previous editions of the Dialog-Wrocław Festival. Last year he directed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito at Teatr Wielki-National Opera in Warsaw.

“For me theatre is not a museum. It should speak to modern audiences. Staging Shakespeare in the spirit of the playwright does not make sense at all. In such a case we are dealing not with a play to be seen, but with a museum exhibit. An old play should be adapted as if it were written today. This is how I try to work as well. When reading a text carefully, I first think about where the tragedy should take place.
Theatre is an art of darkness and dreams. It is a product of our imagination, not a reflection of our everyday life. This is why I use classics. All those classic texts do not show us our concerns, but problems which we recognise but which are at the same time greater than those in our life because they are enhanced.”
“Poza lustrem” [Beyond the mirror]”, Monika Pilch, an interview with Ivo van Hove, Teatr 12/2015