This is a video about a performance in Spanish of Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy, by Witold Gombrowicz.
This is part 2 of that video.
On Thursday 6 November, the play Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy, by Polish author Witold Gombrowicz, was on stage in Warenar theatre in Wassenaar, the Netherlands. Spectators filled about three-quarters of the theatre seats.
Gombrowicz wrote the play in 1935, while still living in Poland. He would spend most of the rest of his life in Argentina. During the 1920s and 1930s, Polish society, like many others, went through a period of dramatic social and political change.
The play is about form, custom and ceremony limiting the individual, who does not know how to free himself or herself. The stage is set at a royal court, where the prince decides to marry a girl whom he considers unattractive in order to spite his parents.
In 1995, Yvonne was performed in Sweden, directed by Ingmar Bergman, best known for his films.
Margaretha Rol had selected this play, and was director. A good director, as one of the actresses told me, as Ms Rol was good at preventing tension which sometimes plays a role in theatre groups.
Lynda Boonstra directed music and singing. She had added to Gombrowicz text, lyrics of a “national anthem of Burgundy” to music by Johannes Brahms. The lyrics contained a monarchist ideology, about supposed harmony in the hierarchy between royal court and people. The play unmasks the hollowness of this ideology: the royal court really despises the common people, plays cruel jokes on them, and kills them if they threaten to upset the status quo.
Historically, there was a monarchy of Burgundy. In the fourteenth-fifteenth centuries, it ruled over much of what is now eastern France and the Benelux countries. However, it was a dukedom, not a kingdom. Gombrowicz’ play, with its references to the twentieth century, has no intention of recreating the historical realm of Burgundy.
While subjects suffer, the royal court of Gombrowicz’ Burgundy plays tennis and bridge. In the Wassenaar performance, the king, the queen, and their courtiers all wore white clothes, with white hats for the ladies.
Commoners wore non-white clothes. That also goes for Yvonne, the lower class girl who becomes Prince Philip’s fiancée. She does not speak a single word throughout the two-hour play. Yet, especially her silence disturbs the court, and brings hidden contradictions within the court into the open. The royals come to see the prince’s commoner fiancée as a danger to them, and decide that she must die. After murder attempts fail comically, they finally succeed at a dinner celebrating the new relationship between the prince and Yvonne. The king there solemnly awards Yvonne the title of Princess of Burgundy. Immediately after this, she is pressured to eat perch. A fishbone sticks in her throat, and the silent danger to the royal court dies.
Antoinette van der Velden played Queen Margaretha. Margaretha was a frequent name for women in the ruling family of Burgundy; as was Philip for men. Maybe the queen’s name, and the prince’s name, are Gombrowicz’ only references to the real historical Burgundy. The rest of the cast were: Birgitte Steens as Yvonne, Cily Banus, Corry Banus, Elza de Tollenaere, Ellen Blom, Hans van Amsterdam, Hans van Netburg as Prince Philip, Henk van Loon, Jan van Tongeren, Liesbeth IJsselsteijn, Marco van den Langenberg, Marijke van Amsterdam, Mija Kuiken, Peter Knijnenburg as King Ignatius, and Petra de Ruiter.
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