Gangsters and poets in brutal and gentle enlacement of a criminal novel, meta-drama and boulevard.
About the performance
On the 7th floor of the luxury hotel Splendid, the police has surrounded seven gangsters and a police officer who joined them. There is a female announcer on the radio, commenting on the situation. A daughter of an American millionaire has been taken hostage. Tonight, the notorious gang “Huja” is challenging the police once again. Outside the hotel, the crowd of curious people waiting to see what is going to happen keeps growing...
Tired, unshaved and in black ties, the Genet gangsters never put their weapons down. Not even while they are dancing. In a moment of carelessness, one of the gangsters unfortunately squeezes the hostage too tight, which resulted in her “misfortunate death”. To solve the situation and prevent the attack of police forces, the gang leader comes up with a heroic solution – to personally appear on the hotel’s balcony, dressed up in the woman’s clothes with her fan, wearing her lace and glitter.
Splendid’s is a criminal thriller in two acts, written in 1948 but never published in Genet’s lifetime. In 1952 he claimed to have destroyed the manuscript and it was therefore believed to be nonexistent. In 1993 a copy of it appeared and was soon after put on stage in several theatres - by Klaus Michael Gruber with the actors of the Berlin Schaubuhne, Stanislas Nordey and his team in theatre Nanterre-Amandiers and Neil Bartlett in Great Britain.
Besides the fictional action, Splendid’s is a play of precise rules and travesty. The text deliberately uses and brakes certain literate, theatrical and movie genres. The basic tone and plot, the images of beautiful men and a lustful woman, the terminology etc., all owe a lot to the criminal novel and film noir of the 1940’s. The second layer however, remains quite hermetic. The speech is encoded in words and sexual rituals of the Genet’s subculture in the time between both wars. But outside of that, the main theatrical model of Splendid’s is Racine's, abiding the strict classic rules of the uniqueness of time, place and work. It is, even as a parody, the drama of the court’s plot - the passageways of the palace are as Racine’s lobby, the words assign roles without the usage of metaphors, etc.
As in Racine, the value lies in concepts such as Court, Dignity, Duty, Misfortune etc.
Jean Genet was born in Paris in 1910. As an illegitimate child he never got to know his parents and was put in custody of the French social services and foster care system. At the age of 10, he was sent to a juvenile correctional facility for stealing. He was convicted for theft 10 times until finally, the 11th time, he was convicted for life. Under the pressure of the French literate circles (amongst which was also Jean Cocteau), he was pardoned by the French president at that time. He died in Paris in 1986. He was a poet, writer and playwright as well as the author of several well-known novels: »Our Lady Of The Flowers«, »The Thief's Jurnal«, »The Miracle of the Rose«, »Querelle of the Brest« etc.
"Some young writer told me the story of how he saw five or six kids playing war in the town’s garden. Divided into two armies they were preparing for an attack. They claimed it was dark even though it was broad daylight. They have concluded that one of them will be Night. The youngest, most fragile, turned into elementary became the boss of the Battle. “He” was Time, Moment, the Inevitable one. He came, or so it seemed, from afar - at peace with the cyclical happening, but with sorrow and pomposity. As he approached, the Men would become nervous, worried … The boy according to their opinion arrived too soon. He was ahead of himself. So it was decided and concluded between the Army and the Leader to terminate the Night and that the boy was to become a soldier for one of the sides … with this formula I think I could actually be drawn to the theatre and fascinated by it."
Jean Genet, Letter to Jeanu-Jacques Pauvert, in Fragments.