Shrewd and amoral, he brutally stormed onto the New York stock market in the mid-1970s. He is called JR Vansandt and is almost eleven years old. The American writer William Gaddis presents him in his experimental novel JR (1975). The Belgian actors’ collective FC Bergman has taken this satire on hypercapitalism as the starting point for their new, large scale performance on location. They are building their towering world in the former market hall on the Jan van Galenstraat. JR's kaleidoscopic world is reconstructed with live video, music and a large ensemble of actors. See how JR Vansandt and his battalion of lawyers and spin doctors wreak havoc on the American stock market. See how innocent people overreach themselves in the race for happiness.
JR, a kaleidoscopic novel by William Gaddis published in 1975, reads like a satire of American (and by extension global) capitalism. The thread running through the story is the rise and fall of an
11-year-old boy, JR, who is initiated into the stock exchange system while on a school outing to Wall Street. With the share of a company they buy as a class, he gradually builds a stock exchange empire, unhindered by any moral awareness. His amoral game upsets the fragile balance of the New York stock market taking with it numbers of direct and particularly indirect victims. Eventually his own house of cards also collapses.
As an eleven-year-old, JR has no contact with businessmen and so he gets the help of several teachers from his school, artists who are forced to teach to get by. Their involvement comes with the promise that they will earn enough money to be able to devote themselves to their artistic dreams. In particular, the young composer Edward Bast is unwillingly conscripted as a businessman and, instead of having it buy him time to compose, he drowns in a rat race of business, which proves beyond him. The genial but alcoholic writer Jack Gibbs also gets involved: unlike Bast, he proves to be a brilliant stock exchange strategist, but because he fails to get his own finances in order, his masterpiece never materializes.
Gaddis constructed his novel almost entirely out of dialogue. The characters are what they say. FC Bergman therefore sees the novel as one big film scenario. In that sense, the production is also a work of sound art. Senjan Janssen is responsible for the soundscape, in which silence is just as important as speaking. The tension between order and chaos forms the core of Gaddis’s worldview.
FC Bergman: ‘The idea that chaos is the basis of existence is also the idea behind our own work. Our productions are often conceived as outbreaks of iconoclasm in which the characters try to hold their own. We see a parallel here with JR, which bulldozes over the reader with its language. We would like to stage this hurricane of dialogues.’
In intelligent, but also extremely funny and moving dialogues we follow a number of characters who become increasingly lonely in the ever-faster moving New York. Discussions between top-ranking managers at the stock exchange are interspersed with marital quarrels in the bedroom and drunken nights among friends. All these entangled lives voice one of the central points of the book: entropy. The world is by definition disorganized and doomed to miscommunication. It is this idea that FC Bergman sets out to explore.
Our set is a building several stories high without external walls, in which we watch from four tiered seating banks (one on each side) as our characters’ lives cut across each other in their respective habitats (a stock market company, an apartment, a railway station, the street, a café, etc.). In JR some fifteen actors, assisted by a number of extras and a child, will serve to evoke the densely-populated world of the book. FC Bergman actors will perform alongside actors from Olympique Dramatique, NT Gent and KVS.
FC Bergman was founded in 2008 by six actors / theatre-makers: Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Thomas Verstraeten, Marie Vinck, Matteo Simoni and Bart Hollanders. Simoni and Hollanders have
since 2016 left the core team and now work on an adhoc basis with FC Berman. The company developed a theatrical language all of their own, which is anarchistic, slightly chaotic, and poetic. In their shows the floundering, ever-striving human being has often taken centre stage. In 2009 FC Bergman won the Young Theatre Prize at Theater Aan Zee with its adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. With Wandelen op de Champs- Elysées met een schildpad om de wereld beter te kunnen bekijken, maar het is moeilijk thee drinken op een ijsschots als iedereen dronken is (‘Walking along the Champs-Elysées with a tortoise so as to have a better look at the world, but it is difficult to drink tea on an ice floe if everyone is drunk’) FC Bergman was short-listed for the Dutch Theatre Festival (2010). In 2011 FC Bergman created 300 el x 50 el x 30 el at Toneelhuis, where FC Bergman is a collective in residence. In 2015 FC Bergman made a site-specific show Het land Nod (‘The Land Of Nod’). The performance was invited to participate in 2016 in the Festival d’Avignon and the Zürcher Theater Spektakel. The members of FC Bergman are individually involved in various other theatre productions, TV projects and films or make productions, installations and videos under their own name.
- William Gaddis
- Bart Van den Eynde, Erwin Jans, FC Bergman
- Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Thomas Verstraeten, Marie Vinck
- a.o. Joé Agemans, Michael De Cock, Rashif El Kaoui, Frank Focketyn, Ella-June Henrard, Bart Hollanders, Junior Mthombeni, Stijn Van Opstal, Geert Van Rampelberg, Oscar Van Rompay, Thomas Verstraeten, Marie Vinck
- sound design
- Senjan Jansen
- costume design
- Judith Van Herck
- Toneelhuis / FC Bergman
- Olympique Dramatique, NTGent, KVS
- with support from
- Casa Kafka Pictures - Isabelle Molhant - Casa Kafka Pictures Tax Shelter empowered by Belfius, De Neef Milieu en Chemiegroep, Must – Museum voor textiel, Ronse