Robinson Crusoe, de vrouw en de neger
The story of Robinson Crusoe, told from a contemporary perspective
Robinson Crusoe, de vrouw en de neger is part of a series of stage adaptations of novels Johan Simons has done since last season at NTGent, dealing with the theme of ‘the foreigner’ in our society and our attitude towards ‘the stranger’. After Arnon Grunberg (De asielzoeker) and Michel Houellebecq (Platform) it was Coetzee’s turn.
The philosopher and theatre-maker Pieter De Buysser was responsible for the adaptation of the text of the short novel Foe (1986), by the South African writer J.M. Coetzee, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003.
The title Foe is Coetzee’s reference to Daniel Defoe, who wrote about Robinson Crusoe and his adventures on an uninhabited island; it is also a synonym for ‘enemy’. Coetzee rewrites this modern, colonial myth from the postcolonial perspective of a woman, Susan Barton. She too is washed ashore on the island and witnesses the unequal but generally harmonious relationship between the white man Robinson and his black Friday whose tongue had been torn out long before the story takes place (by slave traders?). Susan not only disrupts the modus vivendi, but in the end it is she who helps them to escape from their isolated position. On their return to England however Robinson dies at sea. As Friday is dumb, Susan is the only one who can relate their story. And so sets out in search of the writer Daniel Foe. However he is more interested in sensation than in Susan’s personal story.
When Coetzee places the myth of Robinson in the historical context of South African apartheid, Simons and De Buysser raise the level of the story to the modern world. In the midst of the world, in other words, where, more than ever, there is talk of friend and foe, we against them. It lays bare the painful situation of talking about the other, talk that is doomed to fail as long as it is about the struggle for the right to speak. It is a struggle between those who have no voice and those who do, or between those who have a voice and those who rise up and think they have to represent those without a voice.
d'après ‘Foe’ de J.M. Coetzee
adaptation Pieter De Buysser
traduction originale Peter Bergsma
mise en scène Johan Simons
jeu André Jung, Sylvana Krappatsch, Betty Schuurman, Julika Jenkins
dramaturgie Koen Tachelet, Marion Tiedtke, Koen Haagdorens
scénographie Marc Warning
création écliarage Max Keller
création costumes Nadine Grellinger
production NTGent en Münchner Kammerspiele
coproduction Grand Théâtre de la ville de Luxembourg
avec le soutien du Vlaams Fonds voor de Letteren