Rondo is one of my favourite productions. I made an interpretation of the play into which the audience could dip like a river. I turned it into an immersive, site-specific experience with a slow build and a long finish. Also, I got to stage ten sex scenes.
It was 1999, and I had just moved with my partner Nic Gotham and two small children to Rīga. The brand new Artistic Director of the New Riga Theatre, Alvis Hermanis, invited me to direct ‘anything I wanted’ with his ensemble. A rare opportunity, and I grasped it.
I chose the play La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler. Schnitzler’s ten dialogues before and after sex were an investigation of Vienna society, the scenes working their way the rungs of class, from the bottom to the top, from the Prostitute to the Count. Schnitzler’s Vienna was a great way to study my new home, Riga.
I partnered with the writer Andra Neiburga to find new dialogue by re-improvising the original text with the actors. At that time, creating via improvisations and the use of contemporary Latvian argot on stage was something highly unusual and innovative.
As I wandered through the labyrinthine New Riga Theatre, it occurred to me that Schnitzler’s play hierarchical structure could be democratized. The ten dialogues could work as a oop as one member of each couple moved on to a new partner. La Ronde turned into Rondo. On arrival, the audience was separated into five groups and the play began in five different places. Each scene in the play was performed five times in different parts of the theatre, from the cloakroom to the washroom in Hermanis’ apartment, which was located inside the theatre. The audience could interact with the actors, and at times sat a hairs' breadth away from them. You could come to Rondo five times, with five different beginnings and endings. Designer Kristaps Ģelzis and his assistant Dace Džeriņa were instrumental in choosing the appropriate space without ‘dressing it up.’
The ensemble consisted of the same extraordinary group of actors who made Jaunais Rīgas teātris world-famous, including artists such as Baiba Broka, Guna Zariņa, Vilis Daudziņš, Ģirts Krūmiņš, Andris Keišs, Aurēlija Anužīte, Elita Kļaviņa, Sandra Kļaviņa, and Hermanis himself.
The show was sold-out for every performance between 1999 to 2001.
“This production fascinated me with its intonation: intellect wit, wisdom silliness, irony self-deprecation. Probably the Rondo experience can work or not work. That of course is too big a fault for Rondo to be considered artistically perfect. But sometimes I just feel like slightly deforming the professional crieria for the good of pure human enjoyment. Like this time. I liked it.” U.Adamaite, Diena
"One thing is perfectly clear – this formally complicated production is a valuable school for the JRT ensemble and with pleasure one has to admit that our master pedagogues in theatre technique, Mihails Gruzdovs, Pēteris Krilovs have been joined by another strict ”specialist“- Baņuta Rubesa. [..] Rondo JRT - like the work of Kubrick and Mendes -- demonstrates that just like water can relieve thirst and crumble cliffs, wine inebriates or leaves a hangover. It all depends on the user.“ N. Naumanis Diena