During the Broadway production of The Crucible in 2016, as the audience settled back into their seats for the second act, a wolf was let loose in the theatre. It moved purposefully downstage, stood at the edge of the proscenium, and stared menacingly out into the auditorium.
Actually, it was a purebred Tamaskan dog, a thoroughly trained lupine lookalike named Luchta. “He had to rehearse more than Ben Whishaw,” says director Ivo van Hove, referring to one of Luchta’s human co-stars.
Still, it gives you an idea of van Hove’s theatre, wherein an audience is made to feel that they’re in the presence of something real and unpredictable and dangerous, and perhaps at risk of being viciously ravaged by a wild animal.
Van Hove is the artistic director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, a Dutch repertory theatre whose home is a neo-Renaissance building called the Stadsschouwburg. I paid a visit in December, on the day of the company Christmas party, but the 59-year-old van Hove, projecting the neatness and efficiency of a switchblade, was not in a partying mood. Leading the way to a lab-white meeting room, his response to being asked how his day was going was an unjoking, “Don’t ask.”
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