The Old Woman
Adaptation by Darryl Pinckney, based on "The Old Woman" by Daniil Kharms
Premiered on July 4, 2013 at the Manchester International Festival, The Palace Theatre, Manchester, UK
Performed in English.
An old lady is standing in the courtyard and holding a wall clock in her hands. I walk past the old woman, stop and ask her, 'What time is it?'
'You look,' the old woman says to me.
I look and see that the clock has no hands.
'There are no hands,' I say.
The old woman looks at the face of the clock and says to me, 'It's a quarter to three.'
Developed with, and starring, legendary dancer and performer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and co-starring Oscar-nominated actor and founding member of The Wooster Group Willem Dafoe, The Old Woman is an adaptation of the eponymous work by recently rediscovered Russian avant-garde author Daniil Kharms.
Born in Saint Petersburg in 1905, Kharms suffered through Stalinist rule for much of his life until eventually he was arrested, imprisoned and killed by Soviet soldiers in the Gulag at age 36. The shortness of Kharms's life parallels the brevity of his absurdist writings, some of which stretch to little more than a paragraph. One notable exception is The Old Woman, a brilliant, obscure and slyly political novella from the 1930s. In it, a dapper odd couple are forced to deal with the most inconsiderate (and inanimate) of houseguests; a surreal marriage of absurdism, pitch-black comedy, and vaudeville. Carrying echoes of Beckett and Ionesco in its deadpan narrative, The Old Woman loosely follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself.