The Visit

written by

Friedrich Dürrenmatt

directed by

Mehmet C Izbudak

performed at

The Wimbledon Studio Theatre

25-29 May 1999

The Visit Poster

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Directors Programme Notes

The Visit (Der Besuch der Alten Dame)

The Visit is set in Güllen, a town on the verge of decay. Most of its citizens are unemployed and do little more than dream of its more prosperous and glorious past.

Claire Zachanassian, who is now the richest woman in the world, is returning to her home town of Güllen for a visit. She is now a billionairess since her first husband, the world's richest man, died. She owns virtually anything worth owning, several oil companies, railways, broadcasting corporations and the red-light districts of Hong Kong.

The citizens of Güllen see her as their only hope - they will ask her to invest in their town. In order to accomplish this task they appoint Alfred Ill, with whom she once had a secret affair, to charm her to the bequest. He is now older, married and the manager of the general store.

Finally she arrives with a highly unusual retinue in tow, which includes a butler, a black panther, two blinded eunuchs and an empty coffin.

Things do not go entirely to plan, when it is revealed why Claire left Güllen in the first place and who the two eunuchs and the butler really are.

In return for her cooperation in returning prosperity to Güllen, Claire wants revenge for a past wrong. How will the townsfolk react - will their greed for wealth be stronger than their loyalty towards their friend, Alfred?

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Directors Programme Notes

The Playwright

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) was a German speaking Swiss playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was born in a village in the canton of Berne. His father was a protestant pastor. However the root of Dürrenmatt's intellectual rebellion was his eccentric grandfather, a Swiss politician and author of satirical verse.

Dürrenmatt's original ambition was to become a painter. His early plays were illustrated with his own sketches and his works in general are very visual.

Essentially, Dürrenmatt believes that life is, in the last analysis, insignificant and that man is most often corruptible. Two primary themes dominate his works - power and death, both of which play a complex part in his play The Visit .

Death is omnipresent. In the end, man is reduced to a ridiculous and absurd creature because he is subject to the ultimate meaninglessness of a futile death.

The second major theme of his works is the corrupting effect of power. It is a dark vision, albeit comic, showing that the power to do good is evil because man is eventually corrupted by his possessions.

Dürrenmatt is indisputably one of the predominant theatrical figures of the twentieth century. He is highly experimental and his techniques are always varied and creative. His vision is pessimistic, often disconcerting, but always resourceful, and very often critical of our time and civilisation.

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The Cast

Claire Zachanassian ~ Kate Rogers
Alfred Ill ~ John Gargrave
Mayor ~ Val Foskett
Butler ~ James Grayston
Mrs Ill ~ Annette Piper
School Mistress ~ Kate Mitchell
Husbands 7 8 and 9 ~ Carl Whiteside
Blind Eunuch ~ Mark Graham
Blind Eunuch ~ Jeff Graves
Bailiff ~ James Derbyshire
Priest ~ Michel De Dadelsen
Ticket Inspector ~ Adam Cain
Police Inspector ~ Michael Ahmad
Doctor ~ Adam Cain
Ill's Son ~ Michael Ahmad
Ill's Daughter ~ Claire Marseille
Civil Servant ~ James Derbyshire
Photographer ~ Gerry Taylor
Reporter ~ Mark Graham
Press photographer ~ Jeff Graves
Female Chorus ~ Frances Allen
Claire Marseille
Gerry Taylor
Rosemary Hunt
Male Chorus ~ Adam Cain
James Derbyshire
Michael Ahmad
Michel De Dadelsen

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The Production Team

Director ~ Mehmet C. Izbudak
Stage Manager ~ Sarah Hewitt
Assistant Stage Manager ~ Cindy Graves
Lighting ~ Sarah Hewitt
Sound ~ Simon Harris
Cover artwork ~ Mehmet C. Izbudak
Publicity ~ Joanne Crabtree
James Derbyshire
Claire Marseille

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The Visit

in pictures

Photo - welcome_claire

The townsfolk prepare to welcome Claire

Photo - mayors_chain

The search is on for the mayor's chain of office

Photo - good_morning_mayor

During the preparations the Bailiff arrives in search of assets to seize

Photo - emergency_cord

Claire arrives unexpectedly as the non-stopping express makes an emergency stop

Photo - ticket_inspector

The ticket inspector insists on finding out who pulled the emergency brake cord

Photo - mayor

The Mayor welcomes Claire to Güllen

Photo - one_condition

It's Claire Zachanassian!

Photo - eunuch_2

One of the eunuchs in Madame Zachanassian's retinue, guarding the coffin that Claire brings

Photo - eunuch_4

The other eunuch

Photo - alfred_ill

Alfred Ill, whom the townsfolk have appointed to convince Claire to provide a bequest to Güllen, on account of their affair when they were young.

Photo - little_wildcat

Alfred and Claire reminisce over old times, while the townsfolk try to listen in on the conversation

Photo - hanke

Police Inspector Hanke introduces himself to Claire

Photo - to_gullen

The mayor and schoolmistress drink to the future prosperity of Güllen

Photo - conrad_wood_1

Alfred and Claire continue their conversation in Conrad village wood

Photo - gymnast_display

The townsfolk gather to honour Claire Zachanassian at a reception at the Golden Apostle

Photo - matilda

Claire meets Alfred's wife, Matilda, for the first time

Photo - justice

Madame Zachanassian's butler announces that Claire will donate 20 million to the town - on one condition. The townsfolk wait for Claire to reveal the condition...
...that it buys justice for a past misdeed against her.

Photo - whats_going_on

The crime is revealed - in his younger days a paternity suit was filed against Alfred by Claire. Alfred had denied this while Claire left the town in disgrace with a small child who soon died. Matilda reacts with horror as news of the suit is announced.

Photo - blinded_and_castrated

To clear his name, Alfred had bribed two townsfolk to commit purgery in the court case. The townsfolk react with horror as they discover that Madame Zachanassian had tracked them down, blinded and then castrated them in punishment.

Photo - alfies_life

The price of financial aid for Güllen is announced - Alfred Ill's life!

Photo - humanity

To which the mayor reacts furiously, rejecting the offer in the name of Christian society and humanity.

Photo - on_my_side

After the reception, Alfred goes back to work in his shop under the belief that the townsfolk are on his side

Photo - ills_store

Alfred Ill's store

Photo - belgian_chocolates

Customers appear in a seemily never ending stream demanding luxury goods on credit. Alfred begins to wonder how they are going to pay off their debts.

Photo - nice_view

Meanwhile, Claire relaxes in the luxury of the Golden Apostle with her new husband (number 8), the film star

Photo - church_1

As Alfred realised that his customers will need Claire's bequest to pay off their depts, he visits the police chief and mayor for assistance and protection, only to find they have been running up credit too. Finally he goes to the priest for help - but how have the repairs to the church bells been paid for?

Photo - on_the_train

In desperation, Alfred decides to emigrate. He flees to the railway station only to find that the townsfolk are waiting for him - apparently to see him off. His fear and paranoia of the townsfolk prevent him reaching the train, which leaves without him.

Photo - morality

Claire takes up residence with her husband in Petersen's barn. The doctor and schoolteacher pay her a visit in an attempt to make a deal to save Alfred.

Photo - photographer

Alfred goes into hiding from the townsfolk. Güllen's photographer arrives with a photograph of Alfred for Matilda. "Something to remember him by" - even Matilda pays on credit

Photo - interview

Reporters arrive to interview townsfolk and the Ill family about Madame Zachanassian and her bequest. The townsfolk try to cover up the gruesome consequences

Photo - little_one

The schoolmistress, although a little the worse for brandy, attempts to expose Madame Zachanassian's conditions for the bequest. Alfred, resigned to his fate appears and stops her

Photo - family_photo

The press photographer appears to take the family photograph for the paper

Photo - car_2

The Ill family go for a ride - driven by Karl, Alfred's son, to the village wood where Alfred says goodbye to his family.

Photo - goodbye_alfie

Alfred meets Claire in the wood. They talk. Alfred accepts his forthcoming death serenely, and they part.

Photo - town_meeting

The townsfolk meet at the Golden Apostle to accept the bequest from Madame Zachanassian

Photo - dead_ill

With the citizens present, Alfred Ill dies and is laid in the coffin brought by Madame Zachanassian.

Photo - capri

Finally, Claire returns to lay Alfred to rest on the Isle of Capri amongst the Cypresses surrounded by the deep blue of the sea.

Photo - mehmet

The director, Mehmet C. Izbudak

Thanks to Claire for the photos.

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