With remarkable delicacy and impressively powerful writing, Tom Lanoye manages to make a very personal story and journey universal, and to play himself with such talent that this show is wonderfully beautiful and moving.
in French and Dutch with subtitles
A major element in Flemish literature, a worthy spiritual heir to Hugo Claus, Tom Lanoye is however little known in the French-speaking part of the country. Only one of his novels has been translated into French, La langue de ma mère and it is that one which he has chosen to bring to the stage, in Dutch with subtitles. The original title, Sprakeloos (Speechless) is you might say more evocative: after a stroke, the author’s mother suffers from aphasia and gradually loses the power of speech. A seismic shock for the author, a man of words, facing up to their absence in the person who gave him the power of speech. “You call your country your fatherland, and your mother tongue is that of your mother," says Tom Lanoye. "You can leave the former. You will never get away from the latter. That’s what I thought. Until the moment when I saw with my own eyes my mother lose her speech and thus mine too. Out of this experience Tom Lanoye has crafted a magnificent and moving book. He has transformed it for the stage with no less conviction. He is alone on stage, standing, a book in his hands, beneath a huge portrait of this much-loved mother. In a long monologue and with remarkable eloquence, he tells the story of his mother, the wife of a local butcher in Sint-Niklaas but also an amateur actress with plenty to say for herself, vivacious and with a dry wit. This is the opportunity to recount his own life. His highly-coloured youth in a working-class area, his love life, arguments with his “diva” of a mother and then her valiant struggle against illness, a struggle which she loses without hope and without speech. With remarkable delicacy and impressively powerful writing, Tom Lanoye manages to make a very personal story and journey universal, and to play himself with such talent that this show is wonderfully beautiful and moving.