Wings of Desire and other adaptations

From Edinburgh I came back to Amsterdam, where we’ve been in rehearsal for the past three weeks for our adaptation of the Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire. The A.R.T. is co-producing the show with Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ leading company, and staged by the extraordinary Syrian/German director Ola Mafaalani. The production will open in Amsterdam in early October, then tour the Netherlands and Belgium before coming to Cambridge. The cast is half-Dutch, half-American, and features a virtuosic trapeze artist, musicians, a newsreader (Noraly Beyer in Amsterdam, Robin Young from WBUR’s Here and Now in Cambridge) and a host of angels.


I’m currently writing a piece for ARTicles, the A.R.T.’s newsletter, on the process of adapting this iconic film for the stage, so I won’t say too much about it here. In brief, the adaptation process raises wonderful questions about the nature of theatre itself, because theatre and film handle such elements as narration, chraracterization, relationship with the viewer, and so on, in markedly different ways. Adaptation from non-dramatic texts — novels, screenplays, poetry, reportage — is on the increase in European theatres; in the last two weeks alone, in Edinburgh and Amsterdam, I’ve seen two radically different adaptations of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform from theatre companies in Spain and Belgium, and a magnificent stage version of Cassavetes’ film Opening Night, staged by Ivo van Hove, Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Artistic Director. We’re always looking for such texts to adapt ourselves at the A.R.T., and if you have ideas for adaptations that you’d like to see on our stages, we’d be delighted if you added your suggestions here. (Please don’t suggest Ingmar Bergman‘s screenplays; much to our frustration, the stage adaptation rights are not available.)

—Gideon Lester

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