force of habit

(thomas bernhard)

New translation of Thomas Bernhard's 1974 comedy 'Die Macht der Gewohnheit'.
Premiere: August 2003, Zomer van Antwerpen, Antwerp (BE)
Premiere French version: July 2004, Festival Paris Quartier d'été, Paris (FR)
Remake 2010: 'Force of habit (bis)'

The text

Austrian Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) writes the play 'Die Macht der Gewohnheit' [The Force of Habit] in 1974 and terms it a comedy. With biting satire he sketches a portrait of a so-called artist whose ambition far surpasses his talent. Under the motto "Practice bears art!", the artist's ego inflates while he tyrannizes those around him.
Bernhard pens this text one year after the death of world-famous Catalan cellist Pablo Casals. Casals' greatness is held up against the insignificance of Caribaldi, a circus boss who together with his troupe rehearse Schubert's 'Trout Quintet' every evening in his caravan. And just like the trout swimming against the current, he is determined - against better judgement - to attain perfection. As always with Bernhard, actors and public alternate between those moments when the author passionately defends his characters and others when he pitilessly makes them ridiculous.
Waas Gramser and Kris Van Trier have created a new translation from the original German. With 'Force of Habit', Comp.Marius in 2003 mounted their first production of a text by Thomas Bernhard. In 2005, a few of his 'dramascules' were played in the collage-performance 'Brief Interrogation'.

The setting

The semi-circular, wooden grandstand of Comp.Marius is erected on a parcel of open ground on the edge of the city, on an insalubrious spot under a bridge or at an abandoned factory site.
As the audience arrives, they are greeted by circus music wafting from the caravan's kitchen, and the lion tamer serves them Belgian beer or herbal lemonade. The setting is lit. The tightrope dancer rehearses her steps, the comic his act, the juggler his plate-number. The circus boss is lying under the stands in search of his violin rosin.
The public takes their place in the stands. The main set is the cut-in-two caravan. The living-room's wooden floor extends out to reach the grandstand; the audience sits close-up. The audience sits 'backstage', in the boss's caravan.
In the first act, Caribaldi directs a running critique towards the audience and the artists; in the second act, the artists in turn taunt the boss; in the third act there is the daily rehearsal of Schubert's 'Trout Quintet' with the circus owner conducting. The comic plays the bass; the lion tamer is at the piano; the juggler plucks a viola; the dancer plays the violin and the boss himself is on cello. The rehearsal runs amok; the piece is massacred; language slices all to ribbons.
The performance lasts 90 minutes. There is a two-minute pause during which the circus artists are cajoled by their boss to hawk ice-cream to the crowd. At play's conclusion, the bar re-opens.


Translation: Waas Gramser, Kris Van Trier
French translation: Monique Nagielkopf
Actors: Waas Gramser, Kris Van Trier, Yves Degryse, Kyoko Scholiers, Frank Dierens
Costumes: Thijsje Strypens
Sets/technical: Koen Schetske
Co-production: Comp.Marius with Zomer Van Antwerpen 2003

Past performances in: Antwerp (BE), Paris, Nantes (FR)




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