The hidden force
The hidden force is an enthralling story about the misunderstandings and incomprehension between cultures, as well as between close relatives. The downfall of Otto van Oudijck makes us painfully aware of the impossibility to fully understand others.
duration 2:00 including an interval
premiere 18 Sep 2015
language Dutch spoken
English surtitles on Thursdays
Ivo van Hove about The hidden force
‘Couperus is the most global author from our literature. He addresses themes that far transcend the Dutch border, they regard the whole world. In a completely freed, non-moralizing way, he writes about searching and restless people that straddle two centuries. People who say farewell to old certainties and learn to deal with a new world full of questions and without answers. He is not afraid to also show the dark sides that are concealed behind the façade of civilization: explicit sexuality, adultery, paedophilia, incest and hysteria.
The hidden force takes place in the Dutch Indies, but tells a story that is universal. The focal point is the tense relationship between two cultures that irreconcilably stand opposite each other. The hidden force is generally regarded as a poetic and mental power. It is, but it is especially a power that is destructive. I feel attracted to the ‘existential unrest’ – like Bas Heijne aptly called it – in the work of Couperus. I want to bring him to the stage as a contemporary, as someone who strikes the nerves of our 21st century in his work.’
About the play
1900, Java. Otto van Oudijck governs his province with vigour. He sees himself as the representative of a superior European culture. He lives for his work. For the colony, which he wants to bring to a higher level. He is oblivious to the fact that his wife is having affairs with other men. But when Van Oudijck dismisses a local regent for misconduct, mysterious things start to happen in his house and around him.
Ivo van Hove’s staging of Louis Couperus’s masterpiece revolves around the clash of two cultures. One is seemingly open, rational and bureaucratic. The other is concealed, magical and mysterious. The westerner dominates and controls, but he can’t fight the hidden force of the east, which imperceptibly permeates and wears everything out.
Otto van Oudijck experiences this personally. He decisively governs his district on Java. His life is dedicated completely to his mission: to bring prosperity to the people. It makes him blind and deaf to the needs of his family. Nor has he an eye for local culture and traditions. A conflict with the local officers evokes forces that are too much for this colonial. He slowly loses all of his certainties and all he holds dear.
This wear and tear literally takes place on stage: the actors can do nothing but surrender to the tropical environment with natural elements raging across the stage. In the soundtrack, western piano music is affected and discolored by eastern percussion and edited nature sounds.
The hidden force (De stille kracht) is a visionary novel that places western culture opposite eastern culture as being irreconcilable. The powerful Dutch colonizer is unable to deal with the hidden force that is present in the background and is slowly causing damage. The Western man dominates and controls, but turns out to be unable to get to the core of the East and conquer the culture of the Indies. What is left is a powerless western man in the Indonesian forest.
The hidden force is not only one of the great masterpieces of Dutch literature, it is a world-class book with which Couperus proves he can effortlessly stand next to great contemporaries such as Emile Zola and Marcel Proust.
In the press
‘Die politische Brisanz des Stoffs wird nur angedeutet, der Schatten des weissen Hadschis wächst noch nicht zum fundamentalistischen Schrecken. Doch in den fernen Verhältnissen, die das Theater spielend heranholt, glimmen die Zündschnüre für die Brandherde der Gegenwart.’ – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
‘In The hidden force, Ivo van Hove found the material for a genuine classical tragedy. One where fate strikes ruthlessly.’ – De Standaard ****
‘bilderreich und ökonomisch, emotional und reflektiert zugleich, was übrigens auch für das sehr gute Ensemble von Schauspielern gilt’ - Deutschlandfunk
Ivo van Hove has been director of Internationaal Theater Amsterdam since 2001.
In season 20|21, he will be directing Age of Rage and his productions A little life, Freud, Who Killed My Father, The hidden force, The things that pass, Dagboek van een Verdwenene will be reprised.
director Ivo van Hove
author Louis Couperus
adaptation, dramaturge Peter Van Kraaij
scenographer, light design Jan Versweyveld
musicHarry de Wit
choreographer Koen Augustijnen
casting adviceHans Kemna
privat producer Joost en Marcelle Kuiper, Anda Winters
costumes department Farida Bouhbouh, Wim van Vliet
supported by ammodo