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The Deaf Man’s House: An incredible insight into a painter’s life

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 24/11/2019 Noel Wong @ FMT Lifestyle
The Deaf Man’s House is a theatrical play that tells the story of Francisco Goya, one of Spain’s most renowned artists. © Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD The Deaf Man’s House is a theatrical play that tells the story of Francisco Goya, one of Spain’s most renowned artists.

KUALA LUMPUR: “Goya! Francisco Goya!” rings out through the crowded theatre of the Ramli Hassan Studio as a figure emerges from the curtain on the left.

A woman in rough clothes shuffles her way across the stage as she wails the name again and again.

Some chuckling is heard from the audience, as she eventually takes out a top hat from her sack before crying out in surprise, “But where is his head?”

And the answer she promptly comes to is that it is the Devil who has absconded with the unfortunate man’s noggin.

And thus begins the play, “The Deaf Man’s House: A Capriccio on Goya”, a collaboration between Masakini Theatre Company and The Odin Teatret.

Revolving around the life and work of renowned Spanish artist, Francisco Goya, the play is directed by Eugenio Barba and performed by veteran theatrical actors, Frans Winther, Else Marie Laukvik and Rina Skeel.

Set in Bordeaux, France, the main character is Leocadia Zorilla, the lover of the dying Goya who laments about her beloved and takes the audience back in time to see the life story of the artist.

For the uninitiated, Goya is particularly known in Spain for his works which evolved from beautiful portraits of peaceful people and their lives to haunting imagery of war and disaster.

His life is just as turbulent, with his wife losing six of their seven children to miscarriages and him losing his hearing in 1793.

The man who at his peak lived well thanks to the patronage of the Spanish nobility died in 1828, penniless and far from his beloved Spain.

a person wearing a red dress: Else Marie Laukvik plays Leocadio Zorilla, Goya’s lover for more than thirty years (Tommy Bay pic) © Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD Else Marie Laukvik plays Leocadio Zorilla, Goya’s lover for more than thirty years (Tommy Bay pic)

It is quite hard to put in words what you will experience about “The Deaf Man’s House”, but “fascinating” would probably be the most apt word to describe the play.

The play is most definitely a love letter to Goya, and any art student or fan of his work will find much to enjoy.

While the play begins during the final hours of the artist, Zorilla takes the audience back in time to explore Goya’s back-story.

His most famous works are featured, and it is intriguing to learn that even a single painting can have so much of story behind its creation.

There is also quite some poignancy as the audience witnesses how the artist’s works change in tandem with the turbulent times of his life.

His early works were lively and colourful but eventually give way to dark and gloomy artwork which intensifies as Spain is thrown into chaos courtesy of Napoleon’s invasion.

Goya’s experiences are worth pondering on as despite his contemporary fame as an artist, his life was far from easy and hardship followed him constantly.

Malaysian artists may find something relatable with the many run-ins that Goya had with the conservative Spanish Inquisition, who unlike what Monty Python may imply, took their role as censors very seriously.

There could have been no better character than Zorilla to be at the frontline of the play as she exudes emotion even through the simplest of lines.

As the central character, played by Laukvik, she is an animated figure whose actions can range from softly lamenting the fate of the unfortunate artist to animatedly riding around on a broom with a top hat stuck onto it.

The range of feelings that the audience experiences are vast and ultimately guided by the excitement and commitment that Laukvik, Skeel and Winther pour into their respective roles.

Special mention goes out to Skeel for her immaculate singing and to Winther for her skill with the bowed guitar.

By the time the curtain falls, you will no doubt be left with an interest in learning more about Goya, his life and his works and admiring the man himself.

Goya once said, “As I am working for the public, I must continue to amuse them.”

Nearly two centuries after his death, his work and his art still stir the human soul.

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