Bezonken rood / Sunken Red, a Toneelhuis production with Dirk Roofhooft alone on stage, was premièred back in 2004. The play has been performed all over the world, from Poland to Taiwan, from Avignon to Montreal. The moving monologue is based on the book of the same name in which Jeroen Brouwers recalls his boyhood years in a Japanese POW camp. To meet international demand, Roofthooft has performed four versions: in Dutch, French, English and Spanish.
“The play is in my genes” he said on the telephone. “But it is still mentally and physically tough. It requires effort, concentration and passion. I always perform Sunken Red as if it is for the very last time. There is always the stress of going on stage, until the first word is out of my mouth.”
How do you account for the magic and lasting success of this play?
“A critic hit the nail on the head: in this story he recognized a wounded people. It is something I experience myself: how quickly I personally am moved by something that happens in the world. The alternative is to look for ultimate beauty, the divine in man.”
Sunken Red is a technical masterpiece by director Guy Cassiers. “I don’t call it a monologue, but a total artwork for actor, lighting, sound and video”, says Roofthooft. “It is an obstacle course and, because of the live camera, often precision work too. But it is also an act of faith. The same four people always make this play and every single evening they have to tweak it, until the delicately executed little painting comes into being once more.”
Roofthooft sets about learning other language versions with almost obsessive precision. “The public must feel the emotional charge of the words, the fragility and uncertainty of a man who carefully weighs his words. The challenge is to have the spectator feel live how difficult it is to put wounds into words. The silences are often more important than with the words themselves.” - Geert Van Der Speeten in De Standaard, December 17th 2015