About Hanoch Levin
About the Sorrows of Job
A man had seven-thousand sheep, three-thousand camels, five-hundred pair of oxen and five-hundred she-asses, to that, servants in great numbers...
A peak behind the scene
About The Sorrows of Job
“A man had seven-thousand sheep, three-thousand camels, five-hundred pair of oxen and five-hundred she-asses, to that, servants in great numbers…”, says the Scripture. But the good man Job made a terrible mistake, God punished him terribly, and one of the world’s most spellbinding stories was created.
Job in Hanouch Levin’s play is not exactly a good man, he is as wealthy as his namesake, but presumptious and bragging. Times are not Biblical, but Roman. This Job owns mines and harbours, ships and trade agencies all over the known world, and he is under personal protection by the Emperor in Rome. But his lack of humbleness get too much for The Lord, and right in the middle of a business dinner, gloomy messengers keep coming in. The Emperor has died and his successor has taken his hand from Job whose mine had collapsed, a storm wrecks ships and harbours, and one by one his sons are killed.
Job’s cry to the heavens is a deeply human: ”Why?” followed by ”This cannot happen to me!” But this could happen to anybody, any minute, and no answer is to be heard. Now his former clients turn against him, he is ruined, taken prisoner, tortured, and at the end crucified. And no answer will be heard, ever.
THE SORROWS OF JOB is a play of cruelty and mercilessness, forcefully and violently put to stage by Philip Zandén in a scenography like a slaughterhouse with a bleak autopsy bench in the middle. The actors are friends turned into henchmen, neighbours turned into Gestapo. The light is hard, merciless, the soundtrack overpowering. It might have been the strongest drama ever performed in that delicate 17th century building, Job’s passion played magnificently according to Artaud’s scheme for LeThéâtre de la Cruauté, The Theatre of Cruelty.
About Hanoch Levin
Born in Tel Aviv on 18 December 1943 and died of cancer on 18 August 1999.
Hanoch Levin wrote plays, sketches, songs, stories and poetry, and also directed most of his own plays. As a student at Tel Aviv University (1964-1967) he published satirical pieces in the students’ newspaper. His first plays, too, were political satires, a trenchant criticism of the triumphal euphoria that gripped Jewish-Israeli society after the Six-Day War.
In parallel with his political satires and in fact as the beginning of an additional dramatic form developed by him, Solomon Grip was produced by the Open Theatre in 1969. It was the first in a series of comedies that focus on the desires and suffering of sad characters in the social framework of a couple or a family in a housing project or any other type of city neighborhood.
In 1997, with the Cameri Theatre production of The Execution, a new direction became evident in Levin’s work: the mythological plays. These are based on central myths in Western culture, like The Torments of Job. In this play Levin develops a dialogue with the principal symbols and fundamental patterns of Western culture while attempting to write a modern tragedy and dramatically reshape human suffering.
Israeli literary, theatre and cultural critiques acknowledged Levin’s qualities many years ago, in that he is one of those writers who gained an abundance of reviews. Only a few were negative while the overwhelming majority were more than favorable. More comprehensive academic critique of his work has also recently begun to develop, from the standpoint of its social statement, its unique language and particularly from the standpoint of the rare relationship between categorical, blunt violence totally lacking in self-pity, and infinite tenderness, compassion, and perhaps even a facet of refined and completely non-establishment spirituality.
Nurit Ya’ari, Shimon Levy
Participants in The sorrows of Job
By Hanoch Levin
Directed by Philip Zandén
The Slaughter of Job
Review from Aftonbladet
October 1, 2010
A body – sloppy white underpants halfway down a white ass, arms, legs, hairy abdomen and an unbearable itch that makes this adult male body twist around itself in a desperate attempt to crawl out of its own skin. A body – the actor Magnus Roosmann as Job – that remains in the mind long after I left the Jewish Theatre and their production of The Sorrows of Job.
Anxiety in its most naked form, the fleshy, corporeal sort of despair. And just then – when Job has lost everything, his children, his fortune, his mind, when it hurts the most – three rambunctious and jostling friends enter with gifts and joyous acclamations and those collisions, brutal clashes between farce and horror, tells of a society where everything is entertainment. It is a kind of reinterpretation of the biblical Job’s suffering which the Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin has done, written in 1980 with Israel’s already then contemporary chaos as inspiration.
The Job of the Old Testament gets his faith sorely tested by God by first depriving him of everything just to reinstate it all – here he’s a swine of a businessman whose journey from luxury to hell on earth has no end. It gets worse and worse and worse and just as a small glimmer of light can be perceived in the form of a reconciliation between Job and God the men of secular power arrive and impale Job on a stake through the anus so that he ever so slowly dies.
It’s a sooty black, mythical and burlesque drama. Philip Zandén has through his direction highlighted the text’s ritualistic qualities. It is musical and precise which plays well against the brutal and grotesque.
Magnus Roosmann’s very naked portrayal of Job, the man who regresses down to the level of a new born baby quite chopped up into small pieces by what he is exposed to, receives a secure setting that highlights and gives contours to the raw pain. It is also the physical shape of the room that creates stability to the drama of despair, Lars Östbergh’s set design transforms the stage floor into a slaughtering-block. All the blood can be washed away so easily – a blank space where a whole series of brilliant acting can excel in rapid changes between farce and tragedy. The darkness wins, babble and antics give way to body and pain and quite uncompromisingly – which feels liberating in an increasingly comfort-oriented theatrical climate.
By Jenny Aschenbrenner
”The Sorrows of Job” – goes the whole hog for better or worse
Review from Kulturnytt, Sveriges Radio
October 3, 2011
Hanoch Levin is one Israel’s most famous writers and playwrights. The Jewish Theatre in Stockholm has now produced one of his plays – “The Sorrows of Job” – written in 1981. The director is Philip Zandén.
“I have rarely felt so many different things about one single performance.”
Despite Hanoch Levin’s untimely death from cancer in 1999 (when he was 56 years old), his work is still often performed, popular and controversial in his native country. All his plays are published in book form, there is a theatre institute that bears his name, there is extensive academic research on his works.
“What is man?” Well, you have to start there, with the question of all questions – the one from the book of Job in the Old Testament, the one that lives through the literature and pops up in more or less explicit form in the work of authors of all time – such as Shakespeare, Samuel Becket as well as Chekhov and Primo Levi.
A kind of primal stage, as a starting point, such as Hanoch Levin in Israel in the 80’s built his play around.
What is man? What’s left if he loses everything? And how far does his faith go?
“What is a full man?” That’s the first line in the play, when Job and his cronies, in festive attire sit down around a sumptuous dinner table where the wine is flowing. And with that line the play situates itself smack in the middle of our consumer-oriented present day, full of already satisfied people who still just want more; eat, own more – of everything.
The set designer Lars Östbergh has at the Jewish Theatre created a stage where the audience sits on either side and where the initially shiny steel floor eventually gets covered with ashes. The actors wade around in the black flakes. They are dressed in white and black – with the red blood that is spilled as the only colour accent. In the background a window open to the world, reality, the trees outside. The evening light, the shadows. It is fabulously beautiful.
And the first act is super interesting with its almost embarrassing timeliness. It is at times like advanced German theatre with its sticky mess and muck in the ash, sometimes almost Sunday school-like naïve – but always with a strong presence – with a kind of faith in the great existential question that it puts forth. In the spotlight is Job himself – that Magnus Roosmann portrays with dignity – both as an actor and as a human being, undressed all the way to a mere pair of boxer shorts. He scratches himself, afflicted by an itch, he bleeds and sweats, he laments his dead children. How much can he take? one asks oneself and one looks forward to the continuation after the intermission.
But – instead a shift occurs – both in Hanoch Levin’s play as well as in Philip Zandén’s direction. The question is now: how far are you prepared to defend your faith against an authority that demands a humble apology? And the game becomes burlesque, a circus, a cabaret, at times hopelessly lame and sexually clichéd.
When I afterwards study the text closely, I see that everything is there, it is Hanoch Levin’s intention to experiment with black humour – it should be about “my ass, my God”, but it doesn’t matter – it’s difficult to make it work… And it’s painful to watch Roosmann’s Job being impaled on a stake, but painful in a less successful way to watch someone dressed in a G-string rub against the same stake…
Help – rarely have I felt so many different things about one single performance, but still, I would finally like to recommend “The Sorrows of Job” – because it dares to go the whole hog and – most ofall – because it so clearly wants something.
By Anneli Dufva
“The Sorrows of Job” without purpose nor meaning at The Jewish Theatre
Review from Dagen
October 21, 2011
The table is laden with wine and fruit, there are gnawed bones on the plates and the seven diners clad in suits lean back filled and satisfied. The host gets up to make a speech. Thus begins The Sorrows of Job at the Jewish Theatre.
We who have read the Book of Job in the Old Testament fear the worst, of course. And rightly so. Job learns from a messenger that his fortune is lost. His life’s work has been destroyed. The next messenger announces that his oldest son has died. The son is carried in in a body bag. Then he learns that his other children have died. One by one they are carried in in body bags. Job’s reaction follows a fairly universal human pattern; from acceptance (at the first accident), to horror, aggression and ultimately, apathy. But Job also addresses God. And this is when the performance takes off in earnest, especially after the intermission. Heated discussions erupt between Job and his former friends: which God is it that can allow this suffering? How can one continue to believe in a good God when everything has been taken away? When – like Job – in all, one has been a religious man?
The protagonists, those who assert God’s existence and perfection in front of Job, do it with various arguments. Here’s the “Law and Order” argument (we must believe in God, or anarchy erupts) as well as the “Empathy” argument (God suffers with us). But Job denies God, persistently, until he suddenly sees a vision of God himself – nicely staged at the theatre by a floodlight that actually shines from the outside through a window and lights up the actual stage. But even after his revelation Job denies God, when he is subjected to torture by the Roman soldiers who have entered the narrative. After that the main character (Magnus Roosmann) declines rapidly. And here somewhere, I begin to realize that “The Sorrows of Job” does not follow the biblical narrative. “The Sorrows of Job” is indeed a sorrow even for the audience. It is violently black, a fist in the solar plexus, filled with violence, blood and torture. It is, in short, terrifying. I see the play with a Jewish friend who gives me one of the keys to understanding the blackness in the play: one has to see it with the Holocaust in mind, instead of the biblical story.
This is a performance that is very moving and that also makes me go home and read about Job. The play is a little lengthy here and there, and I think it could have gained in strength by curtailing some of the bloody effects somewhat: paradoxically suffering can be perceived as stronger if it is played down. However, the Set Design is brilliant and I’m impressed by Magnus Roosmann’s interpretation of Job. “He shall deliver the poor out of his distress, and shall open his ear in affliction” I read later in Job (36:15). But “The Sorrows of Job” sees no point in the suffering, or in suffering: all suffering is just suffering, period.
By Inger Alestig
“Sweat, Blood, Tears And Great Acting”
Oktober 2, 2011
Visiting the Jewish Theatre in Djurgården is always anaesthetic experience. Nestled in greenery it lies there as a white theatre temple close to the water’s edge amidst dressed up weekend strollers.
Inviting is also the sumptuous banquet that is the opening scene in The Sorrows of Job: the flowing wine, abundant food and sheer enjoyment of life amongst the seven tuxedo-clad men who flank the oblong table with Linus Fellbom’s lighting reminiscent you Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. But while the autumn leaves are falling outside the churchlike windows of the theatre turns what begins as Marco Ferreri’s film La Grande Bouffe (The Big Feast) to tighten further and further down in human scrutiny when Job the host of the dinner in one blow loses all he owns including his four children just to shortly thereafter suffer an unimaginable itch.
With its Scandinavian premiere of The Sorrows of Job the Jewish Theatre introduces the Israeli scandal playwright Hanoch Levin (1943-1999) to a Swedish audience. Which is about time. During his short life he managed to write over fifty plays that span everything from satire to tragedy. The Sorrows of Job, which belongs to his mythological works, reminiscent of both the ancient tragedian as well as Sarah Kane, is a response to the biblical book of Job, whose righteousness is tested by God and should be viewed with Israel’s bloody history as a filter. Because Levin is a provocateur whose works are often littered with scandals. Like when his critical play about Golda Meir(1971) was closed down shortly after the premiere.
Magnus Roosmann as Job is authenticity, sweat, blood, tears and skin flakes in a physical and magnificent performance that penetrates the digestive system of the audience, an impressive display of human suffering, while the rest of the ensemble serves as his worthy fellow players; upper class-rascals, buffoons, angelic choir, striptease dancers and executioners that like crawling maggots revolve around his increasingly godforsaken existence and where Per Sandberg makes the strongest impression.
The director Philip Zandén offers precisely the “dance macabre” that he promises, a magnificent edifice that deftly wriggles and creaks between comedy and tragedy and points out the baroque in being human – how we are born and die naked and where Job’s bloody death struggle in the final scene can be perceived as an inverse vaginal delivery in all its grotesque pain.
When the black ashes of the wake turns into sawdust in the circus ring, where the anti-hero Job’s stake in the ass also functions as a striptease pole for a pole dance, even the audiences threshold of pain is tested in Levin’s version of the Book of Job – which, unlike the Bible, offers no happy ending but ends with purgatory.
Thus other people’s sorrow becomes a show, today as well as 2000 years ago. Like when we just a few days ago could see Michael Jackson’s dead body in a picture from the on-going trial against his physician, a public exhibition that takes place every day – war scenes with bullet-ridden bodies, prison abuse and rape with us as a passive audience in the TV couch. The question is what differentiates us from the other. Philip Zandén’s production exposes the hairline difference.
By Ylva Lagercrantz Spindler
Lost in Translation
Review from Cora
A dinner table, a Seder, but the women are missing. Job reads the blessing of the bread. Job’s world is exclusively male, both in the Old Testament as well as in the performance of The Sorrows of Job at the Jewish Theatre in Stockholm.
“What is man?” is the eternal question asked over and over again. How low can he sink, how far can he deny himself and his God and still remain human?
In the Biblical story God makes a pact with the Devil to test the strength of Job’s faith in God. He’s exposed to one plague after the other. All ten of his children die, but Job is adamant in his faith: He exists – God the Father, or Father as he sometimes is referred to in the performance.
The Sorrows of Job is situated in the present day with a constant criticism of the male-dominated society present. Whether it is the violence that occurs in the performance or the company around the dinner table consisting of younger and older businessmen who interact in a homoerotic environment. Then one plague after the other occurs. Business fails, the mines collapse, people die, but the biggest problem is not the hundreds of dead (slave) workers, but the lost wealth. Thus the question that the audience inevitably will ask is whether the rich man is more worth than the poor? A white more than a black? So you can go on almost indefinitely, and as an audience you soon begin to play along and you become at times almost an accomplice, and at times brotherly with this miserable Job who perseveres in his faith in God, despite him suffering accidents worse than a man can bear. Job loses all his possessions, his children are taken away from him, he is stripped naked to his very underwear and as if this wasn’t enough he is subjected to a rash that is almost worse than his suffering; (here occurs oddly enough a funny pun, rash, suffer, suffer, rash), and when Job finally denies God it is already too late. He has by then turned into a buffoon, a jester, with a pole “up yours” – who’s suffering the world pays to watch.
There are references to the Holocaust and to current day Israel but also to common general human shortcomings. The bodies are carried in on stage in body bags that most recognize from TV, blood gushing, one covers oneself with ashes, sackfuls of ashes, one even wades in this ash that sticks to everything and everyone and for a moment all becomes kind of tragicomic. Suffering becomes a circus, almost unreal, one cannot help but think of all that has been concealed. How no one really wanted to believe all the terrible things that happened in the camps, no one really wanted to know of the other’s suffering. Afterwards, when the war was over. Doesn’t this line swish through the air? But inevitably, I also think of the film Life Is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni and the debate the film caused by approaching the Jewish suffering with a certain ironic sense of humour.
The Sorrows of Job at The Jewish Theatre is an ambitious production. It is somewhat amazing to see a play by the famous controversial Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin performed on a Swedish stage. The acting flows, not least a laudable contribution by Magnus Roosmann as Job, the music feels adequate, the language muscular and I suppose makes Levin justice – I don’t speak Hebrew and can therefore not comment on the matter. There are also remarkable set design solutions, but still it feels like something is missing. Maybe it’s just Hanoch Levin?
What is man? What is life? What is a fly? What are haemorrhoids? The questions posed by the cynical clown in the second act.
I’m fairly certain that Hanoch Levin’ssatirical vein hasn’t really been allowed to come forward. Maybe it’s the translation, perhaps the direction or maybe the audience – justice-minded Swedes in our relative safety, we who haven’t been affected by such suffering, to see our loved ones destroyed, how can we understand? How can we understand the pain that can only be alleviated with a laugh, even if the laugh is passionate or hysterical, a laugh that snaps, which hardens into a grin, but that lets the audience/man grasp the unfathomable, eternally philosophical – what it means to be human?
Naturally one wonders who is allowed to laugh? With all these references to the Holocaust, can even the non-Jew be allowed to smile?
What in my opinion is lacking in the performance of The Sorrows of Job is the famous Jewish sense of humour. The irony – a survival strategy chiselled through the millennia of oppression. I want to hope and believe that the evening’s serious mood depended mostly on the audience and that anyone who goes to see The Sorrows of Job at the Jewish Theatre can catch sight of themselves as in a laughing mirror.
By Yvonne Ihmels
“Phenomenal And Terrible”
Review from Nummer.se
The Sorrows of Job by Hanoch Levin is a brutal tale of bottomless darkness. Anna Hedelius is appalled and seduced by the superb acting and accomplished design.
The suffering is nothing but suffering. A line from Hanoch Levin’splay and a terrible sum total, that is hardly possible to doubt for those who have seen The Sorrows of Job at the Jewish Theatre. Magnus Roosmann plays Job, who like the character from the Old Testament loses his assets, sons, daughters and dignity. The sumptuous banquet in the opening scene, where beggars are invited to suck the juice from the bones soon seems like a soft start – as the play’s stubborn dramaturgy pushes Job to a desperate Golgotha walk towards total humiliation.
Rarely have I seen an actor so completely absorbed and dedicated to his part. Completely exposed and in a voice that hails from the abyss Roosmann plays the rich man – dressed in stylish black from the temple of his eyeglasses to the lapel of his jacket – who is stripped, mutilated and stricken with the most tormenting itch. At one moment he denies God in his distress – in the next he’s impaled on a stake for his faith.
Hanoch Levin (1943-1999) is the most played and most controversial playwright Israel has ever had. He is unknown in Scandinavia. In all likelihood this will probably change now that the Jewish Theatre has introduced him in Sweden. His play depicts a cynical and exclusively male world, where human suffering and anatomical defects become acts in a circus, where humanity is easily sold out for a few gold teeth and where a morsel from a dying man’s last vomit can become a hungry man’s long awaited livelihood.
Philip Zandén’s direction is brutally tough. He works efficiently with a symbolic language that brings to mind both the crucifixion as well as the Last Supper and he doesn’t avoid the unpleasantness. But despite the body fluids, blood, violent fights and burlesque sex games mixed with bottomless agony – it doesn’t turn into nauseating theatre. This is thanks to Lars Östbergh’s almost provocatively beautiful setting– where black walls and floor matches the dark suits, where the body bags are lushly red and where the men eventually wade in black soot flakes as a reminder of their final cremation.
The light design created by Linus Fellbom is of course also very striking. It casts long shadows over the stage floor, it sometimes shines through the tall windows facing the Djurgårdsbrunn canal, sometimes filtering through the smoke on stage. Even Henry Rambe’s fateful musical intermezzos– sometimes they create a sort of silent film feeling in the scene changes – contributes to an equally clear as seductive aesthetic.
All of this put together makes The Sorrows of Job a shocking and substantial production. Ending – well where? In death, rest, and perhaps – in some kind of hope and light.
By Anna Hedelius