Sound of Silence

Alvis Hermanis

NEW RIGA THEATRE / JAUNĀIS RĪGAS TEĀTRIS

(directed by Alvis Hermanis)

Sound of Silence was inspired by “a Simon and Garfunkel concert in 1968 in Riga, which never took place.” According to its creators, the production is about “the youth of our parents, the time when we were conceived.” Sound of Silence is a free continuation of Long Life, a production by Alvis Hermanis seen in Pilsen several years ago which followed the lives of several old and lonely people sharing a flat. Sound of Silence takes place in the same space, but forty years earlier, when the heroes of Long Life were still young. In Sound of Silence, Hermanis captures, with nostalgic humour, the feelings, ideals and desires of young people in Eastern Europe in the 1960s.

A co-production between spielzeit’europa / Berliner Festspiele and the New Riga Theatre

Director: Alvis Hermanis

Hudba: Simon and Garfunkel

Scéna a kostýmy: Monika Pormale

Hrají: Guna ZariHa, Sandra Zvigule, Inga AlsiHa, Liena Šmukste, Iveta Pole, Regina Razuma, Kristine Kruze or Jana Čivžele, Gatis Gaga, Kaspars ZnotiHš, Edgars Samitis, Ivars Krasts, Varis PiHeis, Ăirts KrumiHš, Andris Keišs

The production uses fragments from the film Self-Portrait, shot in Riga in 1972 by Andris Grinbergs.

Premieres – 9 November 2007 (Berlin), 22 November, 2007 (Riga)

The performance lasts 3 h. 20 min. with interval

This production is part of the project “The Future of European Drama Theatre – Tradition and Experiment in the Visegrad Area”.

Awards:

Best performance of the season 2007/08 (annual review of Latvian theatre)
Grand PRIX, KONTAKT International Theatre Festival, Poland, 2008

The Press Award, awarded by journalists at the KONTAKT International Theatre Festival, Poland, 2008


“A performance about the youth of our parents,

about the time when they were expecting us,

when we were conceived,

when we were still in our mothers’ tummies”.

Alvis Hermanis

The Sounds of Silence – The production is a free continuation of Long Life, but in the chronologically opposite direction. The action takes place in the same communal flat, but 40 years earlier, when the characters of Long Life were still young. The Sound of Silence is about youth, about lost innocence. It is also about a very special time at the end of the sixties, when people were still united by the illusion of collective happiness.

The atmosphere of the production comes from the songs of American duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel between 1964 and 1970. These are songs that back then were not considered to be the brightest expression of hippy philosophy; Art’s angelic tenor and Paul’s lyrical, harmonious and playful songs were not in keeping with the psychedelic mood that was so trendy at the end of the sixties. However, Alvis Hermanis deliberately chose these “outsiders” to convey the naive, tender and positive side of an era that, compared to the early 21st century, seemed to contain much more positive creative energy.

 

In an empty room with five doors but no walls, which is meant to create a space for memories and imagination, fourteen actors reconstruct, using metaphorical theatre language without text, the utopian myth of the golden age of human community, based on the model of the hippy culture of the sixties. Although set and costume designer Monika Pormale has captured the material world of the sixties with admirable precision (miniskirts, backcombed hairstyles, crimplene, bell-bottoms) the production is not a documentary. It is more a dream of a lost paradise, particularly relevant in our era of irony, alienation and loneliness. The production is a dream, both in terms of content and composition – the director has joined together improvisation exercises, the collective creation of the actors, into a surrealist composition in which objects (jars, books, milk) and characters undergo continuous transformation, changing their meaning, and where one scene freely flows into another. The acting style is “naive realism,” or stage primitivism; the production has a moving poeticism and subtle humour that awaken in us memories of events in our own private lives, as well as various artistic experiences, and force us to think about the magic power that creates music (love) and makes the world resonate.

Silvija Radzobe, Diena


The director, those who created the space in which he exercises his imagination, and those who inhabit it, have succeeded in conjuring up, in a modest “communal” flat of the sixties, an oasis of humanity in which the concentration of brotherly/sisterly love and naivety stirs up an irresistible “sense of collective happiness” in me as viewer, too. It is almost dangerous to confront this feeling with the present-day feeling of alienation.

Inese Lusina, Diena


There are several possible keys to Sounds of Silence, including hippy culture, Simon and Garfunkel’s music, Alvis Hermanis’ earlier work, and the universal metaphorical message of the production.

Take the year 1968 in the title of the production, for instance: it could be the dramatic year of the Prague Spring with the subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR. Although the production does not contain any direct political allusions, this does not mean that those events are not there. One of the stories of Sounds of Silence concerns young people who live their lives without knowing what is going on outside (behind the iron curtain or the wall of the neighbours’ apartment); yet, at the same time, at the beginning of the performance, four men with headphones, dressed in crumpled suits, are listening to some sort of forbidden information which affects them deeply; obviously it is about something happening out there. Likewise, the year 1968 may also have been the peak of success for the American folk rock duet, Simon and Garfunkel – their album Bookends had just been released and the song Mrs. Robinson became an international hit that even reached the Soviet Union – although only in an underground version.

Liga Ulberte, Kulturas Forums

Alvis Hermanis (born in 1965) – Trained as an actor at the Theatre Department of the Latvian State Conservatory. In his performances Hermanis often plays with different concepts of post-modern aesthetics, signs, images and symbols of the Eastern and Western cultures. His performances are very different aesthetically, but all of them are characterised by a perfect sense of form, style and epoch. His theatre is a quest for new experience and new limits of reality, involving audio and visual arts – using video projections, slides and phonograms. He has also been a playwright, stage designer and an actor in his own productions. His productions have participated in international theatre festivals in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Finland, Germany, Austria, the US, Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Chile, Colombia and Korea.

At the Salzburger Festspiele in 2003 Hermanis received the Young Directors Project Award (Max Reinhardt’s pen). In 2007 he won the European Theatre Prize for the New Theatre Reality in Thessaloniki, Greece. In 2008 he was awarded the Stanislavsky Prize in the Foreign Theatre category, Russia, Moscow.

Since 1997 he has been artistic director of the New Riga Theatre. Parallel to his work at the New Riga Theatre, Hermanis has staged plays in the Von Krahli Teatter Tallinn, Estonia (Šalajased pildid II, Loomav Pimedus, 1994), at the Latvian National Opera (Fire and Night, 1996), Schauspielfrankfurt (Kollektives Lesen eines Buches mit Hilfe der Imagination in Frankfurt, 2005), Schauspielhaus Zürich (The Blazing Darkness, by A. Buero – Vallejo, 2006; Fathers, 2007; Idiot. The Beginning of the

Novel, by Dostoevsky 2008) Schauspielhaus Köln (Cologne Affairs, 2008; Die Geheimnisse der Kabbala, by Isaac Bashevi Singer, 2009), Theatre of Nations, Moscow (Stories by Shukshin, 2008), Wiener Burgtheater (Eine Familie, based on Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, 2009), Münchner Kammerspiele-Werkraum (Späte Nachba, by Isaac Bashevi Singer, 2009)

The New Riga Theatre – A professional repertory theatre providing innovative art that meets the needs of the independently-thinking contemporary spectator both in its content and form. The theatre has also retained the spirit and working methods of a theatre studio that consistently sticks to the values of non-commercial art. The New Riga Theatre’s repertory focuses on the study of theatre approaches and not on box-office income. The rehearsal period often lasts more than a year; productions are not designed only for the large hall (470 seats) but also for other stages, including ones outside the theatre.