Nicoline van Harskamp
A Romance in Five Acts and Twenty-One Englishes
Since 2014, Nicoline van Harskamp has been working on a series of performances and videos considering the future of the English language, and will stage her most recent piece A Romance in Five Acts and Twenty-One Englishes at KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Van Harskamp examines the change in spoken English and the creative potential of the different linguistic phenomena associated with its global use.
The script of van Harskamp's theatrical performance is based on Pygmalion, a story from 1912 by George Bernard Shaw. It tells of the power relations between language, class, and gender: Working class girl Liza Doolittle is attracted by the notion that Professor Higgins can raise her social standing by teaching her to speak English like a lady. But entering into a contract with him, she comes under his manipulative powers – not only her diction, but her identity is remoulded, and often against her wishes.
Van Harskamp collected 21 translations of the play and then invited native speakers of each of these languages — from Turkish to Japanese, from Farsi to Czech — to take it in turns to translate it back into English. At KW, the cast of five actors will restage the play to hear a native English-speaking cast perform a non-native English adaptation of the canonical play.
With Mark Bellamy as Henry Higgins, Claire King as Mrs. Pearce, Mark Kingsford as Alfred Doolittle, Ralph de Rijke as Mr. Pickering, and Cézanne Tegelberg as Liza Doolittle.
Kindly supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.