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Kees 't Hart

Teatro Olimpico

A hapless duo look on as their theatrical triumph descends into a cruel comedy of errors

‘Teatro Olimpico was a dream, a dream that had to come true. I hope you under­stand.’ Here the dramatist at the centre of Kees ’t Hart’s tenth novel shares his tale of woe with a potential backer. His dream of staging a ground-breaking production at Italy’s most celebrated theatre lies in tatters.

Kees and Hein are two cutting-edge theatre-makers from The Hague. After the première of their ‘anti-Beckettian’ play about the 18th-century philosopher Rousseau, they are invited to bring it to the Palladian theatre in Vicenza. Without stopping to consider the practicalities, the partners plunge headlong into a foreign adventure and soon find themselves gasping for air.

First there’s the language barrier to contend with: Kees and Hein hardly speak a word of Italian. Then there’s the logisti­cal headache of transferring their elabo­rate mise-en-scène to a 16th-century theatre. Next up, finances: the funds that were promised either evaporate or find their way into the wrong bank account. Last but not least there are the artistic hazards: Kees and Hein soon start to suspect that their Italian director is clinging to an alarmingly different set of dramaturgical dogmas. Who is this director anyway? Where is the money coming from? And who exactly is running the show at the Teatro Olimpico?

At times Teatro Olimpico conjures up associations with Kafka’s The Castle, except that Kees and Hein’s hapless attempts to grapple with Italian culture and officialdom are much funnier. Every time they take a step forward, the cast of characters intent on undermining their dream is extended. Everyone interferes with everything and everything that can go wrong does go wrong. As the artistic reincarnation of Laurel & Hardy, the duo – na•ve and arrogant in equal parts – stum­ble on towards their opening night, edging ever closer to bankruptcy. But as Kees writes in his report to his financial backer: ‘There was nothing to be done. It would be all right on the night. Vedremo! Nessun problema!

The wittiest novel of the year […] Yet this is so much more than Laurel & Hardy: Teatro Olimpico is also a satire on the collective autism of the modern-day theatrical fraternity.

NRC Handelsblad

As the novel unfolds, the more Hein and Kees’ world starts to resemble a Beckett play. […] A complex network of other texts underlies this single work. ’t Hart, literate and supremely at ease, knows exactly where he’s taking us.

De Volkskrant

Kees 't Hart

Writer and critic Kees ’t Hart (b. 1944) made his breakthrough in 1999 with De revue (The Variety Show), the moving tale of a washed-out clerk who revisits the happiest days of his life as part of an Amsterdam variety show. The novel set the tone for a postmodernist author who thrives on…

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Details

Teatro Olimpico (2014). Fiction, 220 pages.
Words: 75,000
Copies sold: 5,000

Publisher

Querido

Spui 10
NL - 1012 WZ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 760 72 10

E-mail:
j.spooren@singeluitgeverijen.…
Website:
http://www.querido.nl

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