On the Dynamic Equilibrium of Embodied Adaptations: Ivo van Hove Taking _Roman Tragedies_ to the Intermedial Stage

Christophe Collard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In chemistry, the principle of dynamic equilibrium denotes the state during which a reversible reaction ceases to change its ratio of reactants while substances keep moving between the different chemicals. This effectively implies that there is no net change in the reaction, whereas its components keep moving nonetheless (Atkins and de Paula, 2006).

By analogy, the theatrical performance constitutes a dynamic equilibrium between the conventions of the directorial script, the context of the performative space, and the inventions inherent to personal interpretation. Simply put, live performance on stage often enough enacts a scripted 'text,' but also the incapacity of reproducing it faithfully. Another related instance of dynamic equilibrium is found in the cognitive procedure inherent to adaptations. Indeed, despite often being derided by both trained and untrained minds for their so-called parasitical impurity, adaptations after all dramatize their own 'slippage' between convention and invention.

In Netherlands-based Belgian director Ivo van Hove's six-hour-long 2007 production Roman Tragedies spectators were actively made to embody the 'dynamic equilibrium' inherent to theatrical performance and adaptational practice alike as they were invited to partake in this conflation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus (1607), Julius Caesar (1599), and Antony and Cleopatra (1607) on an 'intermedial' stage/set together with the actors and technicians, where "a media stream [...] of sophisticated visual, aural, and script-based discourse [was created along a] scenographic concept of the corporate convention space" (Billing, 2010) that allowed the public to sit down at random, watch the action 'live' or on television screens, order drinks at the bar or food at one of the many food outlets.

After all, the 'net result' of this performance changed little in terms of Shakspeare's stature, but at the same time inscribed in its audiences' consciousness the generative potential of multi-, inter-, and trans-medial artistic creation through the intimate interconnection of mind and body.


Atkins, P.W. with J. de Paula. Physical Chemistry. 8th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Billing, Christian M. "Shakespeare Performed: The Roman Tragedies." Shakespeare Quarterly 61.3 (2010): 415-439.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Federation for Theatre Research 2012 Annual Conference
EditorsIftr Performance, Consciousness Working Group
PublisherPontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (CL)
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

IFTR Performance and Consciousness Working Group


  • adaptation
  • intermediality
  • Ivo van Hove
  • Roman Tragedies


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