Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Arts Festival Review: Eraritjaritjaka


Reviewed by Lyndon Hood

Click for big version

Eraritjaritjaka - The Museum of Phrases
Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, dir. Heiner Goebbels
Based on texts by Elias Canetti

24 - 26 Feb at 7:30pm and 26 Feb at 1:30pm
85 Minutes
The Opera House

Eraritjaritjaka was inspired by the works of Nobel laureate Elias Canetti. His words as they appear in the performance - from notebooks and prose works - have the structure and beauty of poetry, as well as hinting at deeper meanings; about the connections between the phrases, about writing, about the mind of the author, about the individual and the world.

Director Heiner Goebbels has brought these phrases to the stage, using all the methods available to the theatre (music, voice, action, design, video, technolgy ... ) as magic mirrors to reflect the texts into new forms, both serious and playful, hugely deepening the experience of the words without unravelling their enigmas.

In fact, Eraritjaritjaka opens with the Mondriaan Quartet performing Shostakovich on a black stage under stark lighting. The music is chosen for its themes and its intensity. While the simplicity of the staging does not anticipate what is to come, the emotional urgency and changing tones of the music are reflected in the whole production.

The musical opening also leads the audience into an approach to the piece. We are not dealing with the literal - as image after image unfolds they fascinate the attention and stir the emotion but the meanings that can just be sensed will not resolve into anything logical or concrete.

Each technical element of the production is given more than one moment to shine on its own. The music, the actor (André Wilms), the video work and the design would in fact each be worth going to see independently. In fact, all this technical magnificence is integrated into complimenting, interconnected lines like the tunes in the Bach Conrapunctus (the only piece of music not from the twentieth century) that appears as the performance nears its conclusion.

The thing that everyone seemed to talk about when the house lights came up was a coup de theatre built by use of video. It begins when, not halfway through the show, the only actor take his hat and coat and leaves the theatre. He is followed by a cameraman out onto the street, literally taking the production off the stage and into the real world. The live nature of the video that follows is emphasised with a concreteness that is, in this production, unusual. But the big surprise is in fact yet to come.

And that after an impressive cameo by a piece of lighting equipment.

Perhaps the only disappointment of the evening arose from our failure to understand French (the language of Canetti's writing and Wilms' performance). The production is surtitled but the choice between watching the figure on the stage and seeing the translation projected above it often involved, either way, missing out on something vital. Some of the translations did not mirror the syntax of the French closely enough to convey some of Canetti's poetic constructions or allow the audience to follow Wilms' emphasis, and at one stage they were badly out of sync with the dialogue.

It was a pleasure - proabably for everyone - when the surtitles could briefly ceased for a litany of the names of musical instruments - recognisable in either language.

Through the play, Wilms speaks Canetti's words, seperated into phrases or sentences as a rhythmic as well as conceptual conterpoint to the other images.

The tone and form of the performance shifts in line with the content of these. Canetti contemplates writing and the life of writing, music and social order; he imagines darkly realistic or surreal and fantastical societies. Accompanying his suggestive themes and bridging the gaps between them, the technical elements perform for us as in some kind of existential caberet. Trying to interpret the whole is irresistable, but the important thing is the parts and the experience - the succeding images that work on the emotions and and hidden responses more than the mind.

As we leave the theatre still visible of the stage are the dominant images of the production. A white house with four windows, and a minature white house, upturned, all on white square - all in the middle of blackness.


"Eraritjaritjaka", according to a definition given by Canetti, means "Full of desire for something lost".

NZ Arts Festival: Eraritjaritjaka
Scoop Audio: Heiner Goebbels interview
Scoop Full Coverage: Festival 06

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news