Our piece /Sylvia\, Portrait of S. von Harden is one act monologue inspired by the painting Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden by Otto Dix (1926) written and devised by Luxumbourgish theatre-maker Stéphane Ghislaine Roussel and his company. Our production is the first time the piece will be performed in Britain and in english. Sylvia von Harden lived in Berlin during the interwar years and at the height of the Weimar Republic, before leaving the country in 1933. As a reflection of the painting and the woman who inspired it, /Sylvia\ explores what it means to be a modern woman in times of social change. Despite her best efforts to acquire the qualities and social standing that given to men by shedding the traditionally ‘feminine’ ones, Von Harden does not fool her environment. She is still treated as a woman according to the prevalent social standards of the time. It is this tension between her femininity and her efforts to appropriate masculinity that explores themes such as gender, equality and modernity still relevant to current discussions of today. regarding gender politics and equality. It begs the question, how far have we really come since 1920s Berlin?
The piece is performed by a male actor in cross-dress as Sylvia Von Harden. There is a bilingual aspect to the text (German/French) which will function in our piece as a conversation between Von Harden’s time (on stage) and a more contemporary version of Von Harden (video material). The scenery will be decidely 1920’s Germany, yet the TV’s surrounding Von Harden on stage will project the more contemporary version of her now. The interplay between video and live performance will explore the (dis)similarities between then and now.
Ja?TheatreCompany’s is a newly established theatre company founded by Anne Mulleners and Melissa Syversen. Ja?TheatreCompany’s ambition is to find ways to mix and adapt European theatre traditions, mainly focused on bringing together the seemingly opposing traditions of Regie theater and British text-based theatre. Herefore we seek out texts from across Europe and Britain to translate and adapt, and stage in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and playful whilst retaining the importance of text at the centre of the piece. The reason for doing this stems from the current political climate (both within the theatre industry but also the wider, British, socio-political context) and an urge to overcome the ever-constructed dichotomy between us ‘Britain’ and them ‘Europe’.
The two founding members of Ja?TheatreCompany have worked together whilst studying at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (MA Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy).
Anne is a Dutch director and has worked as a SM and AD on several productions including Sweet Like Chocolate, Boy by Tristan Fynn Aiduenu (the Cockpit, London), Yolanda Mercy’s Quarter Life Crisis (Edinburgh Fringe, Underbelly), Troika Theatre’s Sad Girls (Edinburgh Fringe, Greenside) and as an actor in GLYPT’s Jump Out of Skin (Pleasance Theatre). This will be the first piece she directs herself.
Melissa has has worked as a freelance actress in Norway and trained at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As a dramaturg, writer and translator she has contributed to Teatre de L'opprime (Theatre of the Oppressed, Paris), Mark Aspen reviews, and Brexit Stage Left (ongoing book project).
This will be their first theatre production together as an official company.