Bill is fed up with playing a rhododendron

Mirjam van der Linden


Conceptual theatre maker Ivana Müller is really rather strict on principles in her latest production:  not human voices, but static manikins.

ROTTERDAM ‘Adam is 43, he is single, does something in entertainment business and has a bit of a weight problem.’ While we are reading this personal characterization on the stage-wide projection screen, Bill (39, London, conjuring) is lugging Adam around. Adam does not have a head and his body is made of fabric.

In Working Titles, conceptual theatre maker Ivana Müller, a busy commuter between the European avant garde venues, confronts her stubborn fascination with how stories are told and how confessions take shape with new ammo: In addition to the four live performers there are seven manikins.

Their heads are missing, but a ‘face’ they get, like the humans of flesh and blood, from the texts that pervade our minds like a silent voice-over and there manipulate our thoughts. The texts are omniscient and all-defining.

The players/characters are caught up in a vague storyline in eight parts, separated from one another by a loud gong. Key are a potential romance between Adam and Eva and an accident, staged right under your nose, which subsequently raises the question whether its occurrence in the story is real or fictitious.

The language of words guides our interpretation, makes that you experience scenes as ‘real’ or ‘made-up’, that you go with the flow of the story or look down on such imagination from the edge. There are dialogues sometimes, but mostly the factual progress is named (‘it is Spring now’), interpreted (‘Bill is fed up with playing a rhododendron’) or commented on (‘what could be the matter?’).

As always Müller’s reflective and original constructions are ingeniously crafted. Working Titles, however, is really rather strict on principles. No human voices, an unrelenting focus on the dissection of our ‘reality’ and then those ultimately static manikins: it is not a poor performance, but ascetic it is.

[Volkskrant  25-02-10 page 22]