Saturday, July 07, 2012

A Monstrous Reflection: on staging Caligula

'A fanatic overtaken by a radical loneliness': Peter Coleman-Wright as Caligula in Benedict Andrews' ENO productionJohan Persson

"How light power would be and easy to dismantle no doubt, if all it did was to observe, spy, detect, prohibit, and punish; but it incites, provokes, produces. It is not simply eye and ear: it makes people act and speak." Michel Foucault, Power

Caligula is a portrait of a tremendous soul in terrible crisis. In Albert Camus's Caligula, Detlev Glanert has found a gargantuan character – a man whose dreams become his society's nightmares. After the death of Drusilla, his sister and lover, Caligula's world loses meaning. Life becomes absolutely unsatisfactory. 

In Camus's words, "he becomes obsessed with the impossible and poisoned with scorn and horror, he tries through murder and the systematic perversion of all values, to practice a liberty which he will eventually discover is not the right one." Caligula is a fanatical, demanding man overtaken by a radical loneliness that causes him to lose all belief in reality. In response, he demands the impossible of the people around him. He tests the limits of all social contracts as if to prove their ultimate lack of meaning. He attacks the things which give society coherence and life meaning – government, law, culture, friendship, faith, loyalty, marriage and love. He is a figure of violent, catastrophic revolt.