In a first premiere at Bora Bora of I’m Short – I’m Bogart, Kasper Daugaard Poulsen and Mari Matre Larsen present a neo-noir meta crime story based on Howard Hawks’ classic The Big Sleep. You have never seen Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall like this. And was it really them you saw? Kasper Daugaard talks about the concepts of the piece and about what the audience can – and can not – expect to see.
By Sune Rustrup, Bora Bora.
Why The Big Sleep?
– Mari and I saw the film together and became very excited about the visual style and the dialogue. We checked out the genre and learned that The Big Sleep is one of 10 classic film noirs recognized by the American National Film Registry. These film noirs all have a set of classic elements that must be present. It’s a crime story so there has to be a murder, there’s booze, there’s plenty of cigarettes and obviously there’s the femme fatale and the detective… We saw all the films on the list and they were great, but The Big Sleep was just more complete, very aesthetically impressive.
But what we found most interesting is the fact that the film is extremely disordered and confusing. The plot is basically inscrutable and until the very end there is no way of knowing who actually committed the crime! In fact, as the film was being made the director had to call Raymond Chandler – the author of the original book – and have him explain the ins and outs of the story. And he had forgotten as well! So that level of impenetrability is definitely a big part of what drew us to The Big Sleep.
How did you approach the aesthetic expression?
– The Big Sleep has a defined visual style that is stereotypical of film noir – the distinct use of light and shadow. In many ways it is a period piece both when you watch it but also when you hear it. You only need to listen to the audio track and you are transported to that time in a way through your sensory apparatus. The audience will immediately visualize the mood and the atmosphere and we are very aware of that.
In the performance we have two characters on stage who are attempting to recreate elements from the film. Sometimes they do it through movement and sometimes through other means. But the central part is reproduction and the big question is how to do it. In that respect we haven’t focused much on narrative; it is more a question of composition, reproduction and execution. The primary goal has been to see how much you can rearrange chronology and still retain a meaningful story.
Will the story be recognizable to the audience if they know the film already?
– I doubt it. What they will be able to recognize are the classic elements of the genre. What we find interesting is the translation or reproduction. And there are many different ways to do that. Using Google Translate for instance gives you a correct result as such but often it is way off the mark. Like when children think they are accurately presenting something but are oblivious to all the layers that can exist beneath. So when you know the film, or the genre, you can tell that what is going is correct on the surface but at the same time it is horribly distorted. Because things have been lost in the translation – and what is then left?
You and Mari have previously collaborated in Forestillinger from 2006 which also casts a meta-eye on the anatomi of performance. Are there any comparisons to be made with I’m Short – I’m Bogart?
– In Forestillinger we announced what we intended to show and then we showed it and sometimes there can be a big disconnect between the two. You present an idea, draw up a plan – which the audience is made aware of – but you don’t tell them how it will be executed. There is no lie so nothing is really hidden but the audience become aware of their expectations relative to what they have been promised as it were. In Bogart we also play around with people’s aesthetic expectations and the images they create when they hear the audio. Both performances interrogate the senses and our way of comprehending and experiencing. I suppose all performance does that to some extent but it has been a specific aim for these two pieces.
So now I am almost embarrassed to ask exactly what the audience can expect to see?
– We are calling it neo-noir, a meta-crime story. As our work progressed with the film we became increasingly unsure of who is really staging this. Is it us or someone else? Is it the audience? And why on earth are those two characters running around on stage trying to reenact a film? So the crime story is as much about solving the crime per se as it is about the enigma of who has created the play. Who did it? And meta is all about different perspectives of reality. I think that sums it up.
I’m Short – I’m Bogart is playing from April 4.-6. and from April 10.-13.
Tickets are available at billetlugen.dk or by phone at 8619 0079.
- Kasper Daugaard Poulsen (Aarhus, 1977) works freelance for, among others, Aarhus Teater and Odense Teater. He also has his own company, Club Fisk. Mari Matre Larsen (Bergen, 1979) lives in Amsterdam and works as a dancer and performer. They are both graduates from the Modern Dance Department at Amsterdam School of the Arts.
- The Big Sleep was remade in 1978 with Robert Mitchum in the lead role. Even though this version was more true to the literary source it never became as popular as the original film from 1946.