The Net­work ex­pe­ri­ence

why a play based on a film about a tv show might be the ideal en­ter­tain­ment for our dig­i­tal age

Esquire (UK) - - Style - By Tim Lewis

Ru­fus Nor­ris had not long taken on the big­gest job in Bri­tish theatre, three years ago, when a draft for Net­work landed with a thud on his desk. (Never mind that the script was prob­a­bly sent by email and that, as the artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Theatre, Nor­ris might not even have an ac­tual desk; that’s just how these sto­ries start.) The writer was Lee Hall, best known for his screen­play of Billy El­liot. Nor­ris liked it, liked it a lot, in fact. It felt clas­sic but also some­how modern: its mood tapped into some­thing — our age of rage, if you like — that was in the ether now. It was, he felt, ex­actly the kind of play the Na­tional should be do­ing.

Nor­ris ap­proached Ivo van Hove, a 58-yearold Bel­gian who is the wildest and weird­est, most bril­liant and scan­dalous au­teur at work in theatre to­day, about di­rect­ing it. “Ru­fus said, ‘We have a draft of some­thing, Net­work it’s called, do you know it?’” re­calls van Hove. “And I said, ‘Yes, of course I know it, be­cause I’m that old.’” Net­work started out as a movie; it dom­i­nated the 1976 Academy Awards, win­ning three of the four act­ing cat­e­gories.

Did van Hove like it as a young man? “I still re­mem­ber it, so that’s the good thing,” he smiles. “There’s a lot of movies where I think, ‘What was that ex­actly?’ This one is part of my mem­ory.”

The film, once seen, is not eas­ily for­got­ten. Net­work was in­tended as a ni­hilis­tic satire on the di­rec­tion that tele­vi­sion, and specif­i­cally news cov­er­age, was headed in the Sev­en­ties. At its heart is Howard Beale, an an­chor­man who is plunged into de­spair when his rat­ings drop and he is fired. He turns sui­ci­dal and threat­ens to kill him­self live on air at an ap­pointed time. Bizarrely, this an­nounce­ment leads to a dra­matic resur­gence in pop­u­lar­ity. Beale is re­born as “the mad prophet of the air­waves”, a man who chan­nels the anger of the com­mon man.

Net­work was writ­ten by a fu­ri­ous Paddy Chayef­sky, a New Yorker who lived through the Great De­pres­sion, sat on a land­mine in World War II and yet who still saved his great­est apoplexy for the world of broad­cast­ing. His in­cen­di­ary screen­play, which also earned him an Os­car, is full of tub-thumb­ing speeches, and Lee Hall and van Hove de­cided early on that they would not touch much of it. At one point in the film, a ra­bid Beale, played by the Bri­tish ac­tor Peter Finch, fumes, “If there’s any­body out there who can look around this de­mented slaugh­ter­house of a world we live in and tell me that man is a noble crea­ture — be­lieve me, that man is full of bull­shit.” Which, I don’t know about you, is how I feel most days. This leads on to his most fa­mous rant, now num­ber 19 in the Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute’s list of great­est movie quotes. Star­ing down the bar­rel, Beale en­cour­ages his view­ers to go to the near­est win­dow and scream, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not go­ing to take this any­more!”

Finch was only able to do one take of the “mad as hell” speech, stop­ping mid­way through the sec­ond be­cause it left him so ex­hausted. He died dur­ing pro­mo­tion of the film, aged 60, be­fore he could even re­ceive his Academy Award for Best Ac­tor. Van Hove’s first task was to find a new Howard Beale and he set­tled quickly on Break­ing Bad’s Bryan Cranston. “That was im­me­di­ately clear that he was the per­fect man,” says van Hove. “I think I can per­haps to­tally mis­di­rect the whole thing, but Bryan can­not do any­thing wrong. It feels that it’s so nat­u­ral to him. To re­late to this man who stands against the ma­chine and who wins and then doesn’t win at all. We made this lit­tle trailer for Net­work in New York and I said to him that his face, he looked like all an­chor­men, from all over the world. From Wal­ter Cronkite to to­day. So Bryan has this per­fect look.”

And this is not just a Hol­ly­wood star do­ing a few weeks in the theatre to prove they have act­ing chops. Van Hove points out that Cranston won a Tony Award in 2014 for his por­trayal of for­mer US pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son in All the Way. “Ev­ery­body thinks he’s a movie ac­tor, but he comes from the theatre,” he says. “It’s not like Tom Cruise, eh? No, but that’s a dif­fer­ence — not bet­ter or worse but it’s dif­fer­ent.”

In the 40-plus years since Net­work, the film has been cred­ited with predicting re­al­ity TV, the ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos (there is a sub­plot about a ter­ror­ist cell) and the rise of Don­ald Trump. This pre­science cre­ates its own prob­lems for stag­ing a theatre pro­duc­tion in 2017. When it opened, the film poster called Net­work “per­fectly out­ra­geous”. Re­gret­tably these days mad prophets telling us how we should feel are ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially on Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion. The no­tion of a sui­cide live on air was not even far-fetched when Net­work was first re­leased: Chris­tine Chub­buck, a 29-yearold re­porter for a Florida tele­vi­sion sta­tion, put a gun to her head and pulled the trig­ger in the mid­dle of a live broad­cast in July 1974. Lat­terly, news re­porter Ali­son Parker and pho­tojour­nal­ist Adam Ward, em­ploy­ees of a CBS af­fil­i­ate WDBJ, were shot by a for­mer col­league while do­ing an in­ter­view in Au­gust 2015.

For van Hove, who has cho­sen not to re­watch the orig­i­nal movie, Net­work can no longer be con­sid­ered a satire. Events have over­taken it. “In the Sev­en­ties, it was a fu­tur­is­tic thing,” says van Hove. “It was also a lit­tle bit over the top. That’s the dif­fer­ence now, but also the in­ter­est­ing thing. The fu­tur­is­tic satir­i­cal night­mare be­came a real night­mare. We’re in the mid­dle of it ev­ery day.”

Net­work cer­tainly re­mains a pow­er­ful hu­man tragedy and a pre­cise skew­er­ing of the so­porific power of tele­vi­sion. Stephen Col­bert, the co­me­dian who presents The Late Show in the US, cites it as his favourite film. The cre­ator of The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin, com­pares Paddy Chayef­sky to Ge­orge Or­well in his un­canny abil­ity to pre­dict the fu­ture. “If you put [Net­work] in your DVD player to­day you’ll feel like it was writ­ten last week,” Sorkin tells Dave Itzkoff in the book Mad as Hell: the Mak­ing of Net­work and the Fate­ful Vi­sion of the An­gri­est Man in Movies. “The com­modi­ti­sa­tion of the news and the de­valu­ing of the truth are just a part of our way of life now. You wish Chayef­sky could come back to life long enough to write The In­ter­net.”

“Chayef­sky was re­ally a kind of vi­sion­ary,” van Hove agrees. “But Net­work is also a

Greek tragedy. It’s a man who be­comes a scape­goat be­cause his rat­ings are not good any­more. They dump him but he has this last show and be­comes a great suc­cess. So this scape­goat be­comes the hero and then you see the hero’s down­fall. More Greek it doesn’t get!”

Per­haps the most ex­tra­or­di­nary thing about Net­work in 2017 is not its the­matic fore­sight, or the cal­i­bre of the crew and cast be­hind it, but the form it will take: of all things, a play. In an age when we can con­sume what­ever we want, when­ever we want and how­ever we want, a form as fleet­ing and ephemeral as theatre seems like an anachro­nism. And yet.

A few Satur­days ago, I went to see The Fer­ry­man in Lon­don’s West End. As plays go, it is the hot ticket right now: when the box of­fice opened last Novem­ber the ini­tial run sold out in a day, a record. The pro­duc­tion had trans­ferred from the in­ti­mate Royal Court to the grander Giel­gud Theatre, and our seats were bought months in ad­vance. That Satur­day night there was an un­mis­tak­able buzz and mild gid­di­ness: none of those present — “Hey Sadiq Khan, good job! Hiya Wes An­der­son, nice suit!” — would rather be any­where else. The Fer­ry­man boasts a for­mi­da­ble roll call of tal­ent: Sam Men­des di­rects, and Paddy Con­si­dine takes the lead. But in theatre, at least in Bri­tain, the home of Shake­speare, the “pri­mary artist” is still the writer, and the draw for many was that this was the first play by Jez But­ter­worth since his 2009 smash Jerusalem.

Af­ter three hours and 20 min­utes of danc­ing, fight­ing and a lot of drink­ing in early-Eight­ies, Trou­bles-era North­ern Ire­land, fol­lowed by three en­cores, the au­di­ence of nearly 1,000 poured out onto the streets of Soho again. We min­gled with a sim­i­lar num­ber of peo­ple who had just left the Apollo Theatre next door where Si­enna Miller stars in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and the masses from Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child down the road. There was a cer­tain smug­ness in the throng: all of us had ex­pe­ri­enced an un­re­peat­able, one-ofa-kind evening. If we were the type to brag on so­cial me­dia, now would be an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity. Al­though, since 2009, the Na­tional Theatre has broad­cast se­lect stage pro­duc­tions to cin­e­mas in their NT Live ini­tia­tive, tonight’s per­for­mances would ex­ist only in the mem­o­ries of the peo­ple who had wit­nessed them. No streams, DVDs or YouTube clips would be avail­able. Which is quite some­thing when you stop and think about it.

Theatre is hav­ing a mo­ment, in Lon­don and other places be­sides. Its re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion goes against the grain of our modern box se­tand-pod­cast times: mostly we are very happy to en­joy en­ter­tain­ment at home, and we don’t re­ally care if we con­sume it at the same time as other peo­ple. This is the age of Net­flix and binge watch­ing. “The en­tire fam­ily no longer gath­ers around the tele­vi­sion set, and the wa­ter­cooler mo­ment has van­ished,” noted Kevin Spacey, not sadly, in his 2013 James MacTag­gart Memo­rial Lec­ture at the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Tele­vi­sion Fes­ti­val.

Yet, theatre de­fies these trends: in 2016, West End play­houses were the busiest they had been since box-of­fice fig­ures started be­ing recorded in 1986. More than three-quar­ters of avail­able seats were filled last year, an in­crease of 4.1 per cent on 2015. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, there has been a ver­tig­i­nous spike in young peo­ple at­tend­ing the theatre. The Na­tional Theatre has seen ticket sales in­crease by 75 per cent in un­der-35s. The av­er­age age of their au­di­ences has dropped from 55 to 51, which doesn’t sound that dra­matic, but across 900,000 tick­ets sold each year rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant shift. In Oc­to­ber, Nicholas Hyt­ner, the pre­de­ces­sor of Ru­fus Nor­ris as di­rec­tor of the Na­tional, opened The Bridge, Lon­don’s first new large-scale com­mer­cial theatre in 80 years.

“We are in­creas­ingly told that it’s all about us, it’s all about the self, so­cial me­dia, mo­bile phones,” says Nor­ris, an ac­claimed di­rec­tor in his own right. “You can al­most live your en­tire ex­is­tence with­out hav­ing to come into con­tact with another per­son face to face. But that isn’t ul­ti­mately what hu­man be­ings are about. If you go to the sea­side you’ll no­tice that most hu­mans are on the same beach, or they’ll go to pubs or to clubs. Peo­ple do like be­ing with other peo­ple, we’re in­her­ently so­cia­ble. There’s some­thing joy­ful about laugh­ing or be­ing moved in a group.”

That’s one rea­son; another is that theatre has adapted to the times. Pro­duc­tions have be­come in­no­va­tive and sur­pris­ing, and that doesn’t just mean do­ing Shake­speare in jeans and T-shirts. What has his­tor­i­cally of­ten been a dry, wor­thy evening of en­ter­tain­ment has be­come any­thing but pre­dictable. And theatre’s run cer­tainly doesn’t show any signs of stalling. Net­work opens at the Na­tional’s Lyt­tel­ton Theatre on 4 Novem­ber and is al­ready sold out un­til the new year. The mu­si­cal Hamil­ton trans­fers to Lon­don from Broad­way on 6 De­cem­ber, bring­ing with it a Pulitzer Prize for drama, a Grammy and 11 Tony awards. Ben Brant­ley, The New York Times chief theatre critic, sug­gested peo­ple might want “to mort­gage their houses and lease their chil­dren” to snaf­fle a ticket.

Nor­ris, mean­while, di­rects Mac­beth next spring, his first Shake­speare play for a quar­ter of a cen­tury, with Rory Kin­n­ear and Anne-Marie Duff in the lead roles.

theatre’s run cer­tainly doesn’t show any signs of stalling. net­work opens in lon­don on 4 novem­ber and is al­ready sold out un­til the new year

“It’s funny,” he goes on, “when I was younger, re­ally un­til about six or seven years ago, peo­ple would say to me, ‘Why are you giv­ing your life to this dy­ing art form?’ Peo­ple don’t say that any­more be­cause it just isn’t. It’s thriv­ing.”

If you want to un­der­stand how theatre rein­vented it­self for the modern age, then fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with Ivo van Hove’s ca­reer is a nat­u­ral and sen­si­ble place to start. His first pro­duc­tion very much set the tone for what was to fol­low. It was 1981, in An­twerp, and van Hove had writ­ten a short, semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal piece called Ru­mours about his brother’s schizophre­nia. He — and the set de­signer Jan Ver­sweyveld, his part­ner in life and work ever since — de­cided to stage the play in a de­serted laun­dry fa­cil­ity. They en­listed a cast of 30 peo­ple, and left space only for the same num­ber of au­di­ence mem­bers.

“In Bel­gium, theatre was dead,” van Hove ex­plains. “Dead. No­body who was un­der 50 went to the theatre, be­cause it was not a place to go. It was to­tally bor­ing. So we didn’t want to work in the es­tab­lish­ment, in the es­tab­lished the­atres. It was like a painter, we were sit­ting in front of a white can­vas: we had noth­ing, no his­tory, noth­ing that we could use. So we started to in­vent theatre for our­selves, how we wanted to do it. Re­ally it was a pri­mal scream be­cause it was a very per­sonal story and it was like, ‘This is what we want to do with theatre. Theatre can be this!’”

Van Hove’s in­spi­ra­tions were not theatre direc­tors, but artists such as Ma­rina Abramović and David Bowie. In May 1976, when he was 17, he went to see the Thin White Duke’s Sta­tion to Sta­tion tour at the For­est Na­tional arena in Brus­sels. The show started with a pro­jec­tion of Un Chien An­dalou, a 21-minute film by Luis Buñuel and Sal­vador Dalí from 1929 that has no dis­cernible plot and de­picts a ra­zor blade cut­ting into an eye­ball. “There were maybe 15,000 peo­ple there to see Bowie — I was, of course, one of the first there — and all these peo­ple they saw this movie,” he says. “Then there were all these white lights, and he came on and he was al­most trans­par­ent. To­tally white, as if he was al­most dead, a liv­ing dead body. I still see it, I smell it al­most.”

He in­hales. Forty years later, van Hove would be­come close friends with Bowie, when he di­rected Lazarus, the mu­si­cian’s swan­song mu­si­cal: “So be­ing this per­son in­ter­ested in di­rect­ing, that was theatre, not what was in the City Theatre. That I un­der­stood. That’s what I wanted to do.”

The fact that van Hove was liv­ing in north­ern Bel­gium back then proved to be serendip­i­tous. The fash­ion col­lec­tive known as “the An­twerp Six” — Dries Van Noten, Ann De­meule­meester, Dirk Van Saene, Wal­ter Van Beiren­donck, Dirk Bikkem­bergs and Ma­rina Yee (Martin Margiela was on the fringes, too) — all grad­u­ated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in An­twerp in ei­ther 1980 or 1981. “There was a punk at­mos­phere in the city and the arts: ‘Fuck you all, we are go­ing to do it our way!’” re­calls van Hove. “Anti-es­tab­lish­ment. Not by throw­ing rocks, no, no, no, we made theatre to blow up ev­ery­thing. That’s what we did. And they made new fash­ion, they in­vented the fash­ion in a dif­fer­ent way, to blow it up.”

The punk spirit might still be there, but these days van Hove has hung up the leather jacket and put away the makeup. When we meet in his of­fice in cen­tral Am­s­ter­dam, his grey-black hair is neatly cropped and side­parted; he wears slim-fit­ting, crease­less Agnès B. He is known for his fas­tid­i­ous ap­proach and un­stint­ing work ethic. His day job is di­rec­tor of Toneel­groep Am­s­ter­dam, the largest theatre com­pany in the Nether­lands, but he of­ten works si­mul­ta­ne­ously on pro­duc­tions of his own in Bri­tain, Amer­ica and Aus­tralia. He de­mands that all of his cast ar­rive for the first day of re­hearsal “off book”, that is, know­ing all of their lines by heart.

Van Hove en­gages some very fa­mous ac­tors these days — Jude Law, Ruth Wil­son and Mark Strong have been in re­cent pro­duc­tions — and he ac­cepts that he is a de­mand­ing taskmas­ter. In­juries are not un­com­mon. “Yes, I have this ten­dency to ask a lot,” he smiles. “My mis­sion in my life in the theatre is to make the most unique, the most per­sonal and the most ur­gent pro­duc­tion pos­si­ble for as large an au­di­ence as pos­si­ble. There­fore, I tend to push ac­tors not to take the ob­vi­ous or the first choice. Medi­ocrity I don’t like. I want them to take risks, do some­thing dar­ing, like, ‘Oh, will this be suc­cess­ful? This is al­most over the top…’ That’s what I like. To search for the ex­tremes a lit­tle bit, I think I’m known for that, no? Not just to shock or to pro­voke, be­cause that never has in­ter­ested me at all, but just to open peo­ple’s minds.”

These in­ter­pre­ta­tions have not al­ways been warmly re­ceived. David Hare, one of Bri­tain’s great play­wrights, sin­gled out van Hove per­son­ally and said ear­lier this year that the cult of van Hove was “be­gin­ning to in­fect our theatre”. In an in­ter­view for the book What Play­wrights Talk About When They Talk About Writ­ing by Jef­frey Sweet, Hare went on, “We’re head­ing in Bri­tain to­wards an over-aes­theti­cised Euro­pean theatre. We’ve got all these peo­ple called ‘theatre-mak­ers’ — God help us, what a word! — com­ing in and do­ing di­rec­tor’s theatre, where you camp up clas­sic plays and you cut them and prune them around.”

Van Hove laughs when I bring up Hare’s com­ments. “It’s a badge of hon­our!” he ex­claims. “I don’t care, no, be­cause it’s so be­neath the truth. Per­haps he hasn’t seen too much, I don’t know. Ten years ago, they called us ‘Euro­trash’. I think David Hare still con­sid­ers me as Euro­trash.”

Then van Hove’s ex­pres­sion changes from amuse­ment to some­thing closer to an­noy­ance. “Per­haps we are dif­fer­ent, but we are very se­ri­ous about what we do,” he says. “And I never slash up a text, never ever. A com­pi­la­tion is a dif­fer­ent thing, but when I do Hedda Gabler, you see Hedda Gabler from the be­gin­ning till the end. No, I re­spect David Hare a lot, he has writ­ten won­der­ful things, so I don’t want to put him in a cor­ner. That doesn’t in­ter­est me, but I think this re­ac­tionary ten­dency to try to stop time, it’s use­less.” Van Hove sighs, shakes his head, “It’s use­less.”

In a ca­reer that has not seen van Hove shirk chal­lenges, Net­work is on another level. “This is re­ally like a mon­ster pro­duc­tion, it’s big,” he says, blow­ing out his cheeks. “It’s a lot of peo­ple on stage, a re­ally big set de­sign, live mu­si­cians on stage, video on stage… It’s like a lot, a lot, a lot. All the dif­fi­cul­ties you can have in theatre, it’s in this pro­duc­tion.”

And some dif­fi­cul­ties he has made for him­self. For ev­ery per­for­mance of Net­work, there will be a bal­lot for tick­ets to sit on the stage and be­come part of the res­tau­rant and bar scenes in the play. This is not the first time that van Hove has dis­man­tled the prosce­nium arch. In Ro­man Tragedies, his mash-up of Shake­speare’s Co­ri­olanus, Julius Cae­sar and Antony and Cleopa­tra into one play, au­di­ence mem­bers could go up on stage and lounge around on so­fas, with the in­ten­tion that they some­how be­came Ro­man cit­i­zens watch­ing the ac­tion un­fold. In Net­work, van Hove wants to take this de­vice to the next level: those lucky enough to win a place will be served a five-course meal (short rib and ox cheek bour­guignon!) with an aper­i­tif and a glass of wine. There will be a “sim­ple” dress code: van Hove’s Net­work is not set in the Sev­en­ties, though there will be a nod to the era with, for ex­am­ple, more flared trousers.

“We al­ways con­sider a theatre as a site-spe­cific venue, so we can do what­ever!” says van Hove. “As long as peo­ple can see and hear, that’s im­por­tant. So in this case, we thought to cre­ate a real bar and a real res­tau­rant on stage and that means that the au­di­ence in the au­di­to­rium will look at an au­di­ence also on stage look­ing at a tele­vi­sion show. You’re not only see­ing the tele­vi­sion show but you are see­ing how peo­ple look at it.”

From the start, many peo­ple have loved what van Hove does, and a smaller num­ber have hated it — and he’s well aware that he’ll only con­tinue to re­ceive the creative free­dom he cur­rently en­joys if the for­mer out­num­ber the lat­ter. “With Ru­mours, we had 30 peo­ple ev­ery day,” he says and laughs, be­cause, of course, that was the ca­pac­ity of the laun­dry. But the fol­low­ing year, the pro­duc­tion moved to a big­ger space on the docks and again the run was a sell-out, with long queues for ad­mis­sion. “There was a hunger for re­newal,” van Hove con­cludes, “for some­thing new.”

Soon, the largest theatre in An­twerp asked van Hove to put on a pro­duc­tion there. He agreed, but only on the con­di­tion that he would use the re­hearsal space rather than the main house. It was an in­spired idea: ev­ery­body was talk­ing about not the prin­ci­pal pro­duc­tion but the ob­scure, left­field gath­er­ing in a side room. “All the ac­tors of the com­pany were al­ways peep­ing through the doors, like: ‘What’s go­ing on here?’” he re­calls. “It was like a worm in an ap­ple. We were eat­ing it up, that’s what we did. Or like ter­ror­ists: in­vad­ing the theatre and chang­ing it by do­ing our own thing.”

Van Hove is less a ter­ror­ist now and more a part of the es­tab­lish­ment he once scan­dalised. He is also a poster boy for “im­mer­sive theatre” — se­cret, tai­lored ex­pe­ri­ences, of­ten in un­usual venues — though it’s not a tag he is es­pe­cially com­fort­able with. “Ev­ery­body calls him­self im­mer­sive theatre now and it’s a prob­lem,” he says. “In im­mer­sive theatre, you also have a lot of shit these days. Like you drop a cou­ple of bal­loons on the au­di­ence, you have im­mer­sive theatre.”

For van Hove, a theatre di­rec­tor needs to con­sider al­ways how best to tell their story. He is renowned for his dra­matic use of video in his pro­duc­tions, but in A View from the Bridge and Hedda Gabler he didn’t have any, be­cause he felt it wouldn’t add any­thing. Like­wise, in Net­work, he’s come up with the neat idea that the stage man­agers and floor man­agers who are work­ing on the fic­tional Howard Beale Show will min­gle flu­idly with the real crew and tech­ni­cians of the Na­tional Theatre. But van Hove feels this only works be­cause he likes that idea of an au­di­ence watch­ing another au­di­ence watch­ing a piece of en­ter­tain­ment.

“The goal is giv­ing the au­di­ence a very spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ence. I think that is what theatre is about,” he says. “And in these days where there’s less and less money for arts you should think very well why you want to do it. So that you don’t bring any shit that you can see on tele­vi­sion al­ready. En­ter­tain­ment is ev­ery­where, you can open your com­puter now and I can have en­ter­tain­ment for the whole evening for free. So peo­ple will not pay any more to go to the theatre to have that.”

The day be­fore we meet, van Hove walked past a friend’s apart­ment — ev­ery­one in Am­s­ter­dam leaves their cur­tains open — and saw him sat in front of a “hu­u­u­u­u­uge” TV screen watch­ing a foot­ball match. He started think­ing: why will any­one go to the cinema in the fu­ture? Why will peo­ple schlep to mu­sic con­certs when they can have per­fect sound qual­ity at home? But, as he walked to work, he felt op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of theatre.

“I think there­fore theatre is the art of the 21st cen­tury,” he con­cludes. “Be­cause you have flesh there, you have peo­ple around you, some­thing is at stake that night. And I think that’s one of the big ad­van­tages theatre will have in this cen­tury.”

And, af­ter al­most 40 years in the busi­ness, van Hove still be­lieves that he has some­thing to con­trib­ute. “When you come to a show by us, I don’t think peo­ple know what to ex­pect,” he says, grin­ning. “You open the door and think, ‘What will hap­pen tonight?’ So that’s a good thing.”

‘theatre is the art of the 21st cen­tury,’ says ivo van hove. ‘be­cause you have flesh there, you have peo­ple around you, some­thing is at stake that night’

cranston and di­rec­tor ivo van hove in dis­cus­sion dur­ing the first on-stage read­ing of net­work

from left: jack o’con­nell and si­enna miller in ten­nessee williams’ cat on a hot tin roof, lon­don; laura don­nelly and paddy con­si­dine star in the fer­ry­man, di­rected by sam men­des, lon­don; christo­pher jack­son cen­tre stage in the hit mu­si­cal hamil­ton, broad­way, nyc

from left: michael c hall in bowie’s lazarus, di­rected by ivo van hove; ruth wil­son and rafe spall along­side van hove dur­ing hedda gabler re­hearsals; mark strong in a view from the bridge, di­rected by van hove

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