Sunday, October 31, 2004

Out of a House Walked a Man...

Out of a House Walked a Man... (2004)
-Was a musical response to the work of Russian surrealist, poet and children's writer, Daniil Kharms. In his work Kharms used absurd human logic to highlight the absurd reality of his time. (

-Kharms formed the Association for Real Art in 1927 and wrote, 'When
you come to us, forget everything that you have been accustomed to seeing in the
theatre.' He was arrested in 1931 and charged with 'distracting the people from
the task of industrial construction with transient poetry.' Although he was a
banned writer, Russians kept his books and enjoyed the absurdities which
reflected the absurdities of their own lives.

-Various pieces of Daniil Kharms's work were compiled into Out of a House Walked a Man.

-It was an integrated movement, speech and music performance lasting for two hours with no interval.

-Described as a 'clever mixture of humour and violence, cruelty and tenderness, and most of all an acknowledgement of the audience's participation in the event, make it [the piece] engrossing throughout.'

-'You want to find that customary logical sequence of connections which, it seems to you, you see in life. But it is not there. Why not? Because an object and a phenomenon transported from life to the stage lose their lifelike sequence of connections and acquire another - a theatrical one. We are not going to explain it. In order to understand the sequence of connections of any theatrical performance one must see it. We can only say that our task is to render the world of concrete objects on the stage in their interrelationships and collisions.'

(Taken from The Manifesto of Oberiu, The Association for Real Art, Founded by Kharms and friends in 1927)

-In the piece Complicite resurrect Kharms in spirit, and in person: two performers play Kharms as a tense double act. He is invaded by the subjects of his own little stories while he struggles to write more than one line.

-The opening sequence sets up a whole world of absurdity and menace, looking at Kharm's ideas and works. After which, the show coalesces in a staging of Kharms's longest (30 pages) piece, The Old Woman.

-On the surface it is a comic nightmare about an old woman who dies on Kharms' living room floor and what he should do with the corpse which refuses to stay dead.

-But, the theme of the old woman has great depth in Russian literature writers such as Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Gogol all used old women to highlight crisis and inequality in Tsarist Russia.

In this play the old woman (who refuses to die) seems to be a reference to the re-emergence of crisis and inequality as the first Five Year Plans are introduced.

You are never sure--is she really dead, did she dream it all, is it Kharms, or one of Kharms' stories you are witnessing?

A reference to a red haired man, who amounted to nothing may be Kharms's opinion of Lenin or Lenin's ideas.
Kharms's problem with writers' block could also represent the gagging of writers under Stalin.

Review excerpts
Michael Coveney - The Observer, December 1994
'You see the ballet of a recalcitrant corpse stuffed in a suitcase, a man admiring the lower thighs of his underwear-free lover before Big Brother bangs on the door, people collapsing in bread queues, the ecstasy in what Auden termed the good omen of 'a satisfactory dump', and a theory of laughter tested on a live audience. The actors and musicians of Theatre de Complicite never fail to amaze and delight...'

Benedict Nightingale - The Times, December 1994
'You will certainly get a sense of the crackpot desperation which was often found in that locked ward, the Soviet Union. It is an excellent introduction to one of Russia's lost geniuses, and a fine example of Complicite's imaginative bravura.'

Michael Billington - The Guardian, December 1994 '... Technically the show is highly sophisticated. Director Simon McBurney deploys the 12-strong cast with great fluidity to conjure up everything from bread queues to apartment block voyeurs. Gerard McBurney's score, for eight on-stage musicians, consciously echoes Shostakovich, with whom Kharms may have considered working. And Tim Hatley's solid-seeming set finally dissolves into a cascade of fluttering paper as if in protest against the suppression, until recent times, of Kharms's work... '

Research by Catherine, Natalie, Kasia and Tom.


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