Pioneering theatre director Robert Wilson (The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, MIF11) returns to Manchester with his brand new theatrical production, The Old Woman. Developed with and starring legendary dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, and co-starring world-renowned actor Willem Dafoe, The Old Woman is an adaptation of the work of the same name by Russian author Daniil Kharms.
Born in St Petersburg in 1905, Kharms suffered through Stalinist rule for much of his life. Eventually he was arrested, imprisoned and killed by Soviet soldiers in the Gulags aged just 36. The shortness of Kharms’ life parallels the brevity of his absurdist writings, some of which stretch to little more than a paragraph. One exception is The Old Woman, an obscure, brilliant and slyly political novella written in the 1930s.
Carrying echoes of Beckett and Ionesco in its deadpan narrative, which follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself, The Old Woman is perhaps the finest work by one of the great avant-garde Russian authors.
An old lady is standing in the courtyard and holding a wall clock in her hands. I walk past the old woman, stop and ask her, ‘What time is it?’
‘You look,’ the old woman says to me. I look and see that the clock has no hands.
‘There are no hands,’ I say.
The old woman looks at the face of the clock and says to me, ‘It’s a quarter to three.’
THE OLD WOMAN, DANIIL KHARMS
DIRECTION, SET DESIGN, LIGHTING CONCEPT
Robert Wilson with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe
Daniil Kharms ADAPTED BY Darryl Pinckney
ASSOCIATE SET DESIGN
Lynsey Peisinger / Tilman Hecker
ASSISTANT COSTUME DESIGN
A Baryshnikov Productions, Change Performing Arts and The Watermill Center project.
Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Spoleto Festival dei 2Mondi, Théâtre de la Ville-Paris/Festival d’Automne à Paris and deSingel, Antwerp.