Seeing Roman Tragedies for the first time, in my first year as a blogger, proved to be epochal, a true light-bulb moment about the power and potential of theatre far beyond the London playhouses I’d been visiting up to then. And at the heart of a magnificent ensemble was Hans Kesting, delivering his Mark Antony from a wheelchair after injuring himself the week before – anyone know the Dutch for ‘the show must go on…’?!
Despite his hectic schedule, Hans kindly spoke to me about that time: “The first time we were due to play Roman Tragedies in London, I broke my ankle during the show on Friday night in Amsterdam. The following week we would perform at the Barbican – everybody was thrilled to go there but I was afraid that it was game over for me.
“Fortunately, I met a theatre loving orthopaedic surgeon who told me that he would operate on me and make sure that I would be able to play my part in a wheelchair and on crutches in London. So I got operated on Monday, flew to London on Wednesday, did one run-through on Thursday and Thursday night we opened. And everything went perfectly well, it just seemed that it was a directorial choice of Ivo having Marc Antony in a wheelchair, the soldier who got wounded in a war . But I must say all the times that I spoke that famous monologue of his it was a truly special moment.”
Where were you 10 years ago?
Rehearsing the first scene of Roy Cohn in Angels of America where he juggles with his switchboard and phone. But of course if Ivo van Hove directs you, you get neither a switchboard nor a phone. So I had to mime and at first got really annoyed with that but eventually everything went well.
Best show you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
I have to name one of my own company. Directed by Ivo van Hove (and no, I’m not a zealot…) Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers.
What has been your professional highlight of the last 10 years?
Performing Shakespeare in Dutch at the Barbican in London. And BAM in NYC.
Top flavour of interval ice-cream?
I never eat ice-cream.
What show do you wish theatres would give a rest for a few years?
Waiting for Godot. I’d love to see an English production of one of the plays by Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard. Heldenplatz for instance.
Name someone who you think is a really underappreciated talent (in the world of theatre)?
Assistants of assistants.
Elphaba or Glinda?
Elphaba. “I don’t cause commotions. I am one”.
What is one thing that you think would help theatre survive and/or thrive the next ten years?
Really invest in good arts education at schools. Make sure young people have access to the arts. Teach them how to look at art. Explain to them, show them why theatre can be such an overwhelming, intense experience. Make them understand how special it is that theatre is a live experience.
Which is your favourite theatre?
Burgtheater in Vienna. Never played there. But have been there as a spectator.
Can you say anything about what’s to come for you, (in the next ten years or otherwise)?
This coming season directed by Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld I will play a monologue based on the book Who killed my father by Édouard Louis.
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