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Directed by Eugenio Barba

Two Tracks for the Spectator

A circle of artists gathers in a garden in Denmark. It is a bright morning. They wait for a summer night when the setting sun will dance.

A friend from another continent is about to join them. With him, dreaming with open eyes, they will depart on a pilgrimage into the regions of Andersen's fairy tales. Europe is at peace, or at least their country is. Or perhaps only their garden. In that confined space, time stands still and liquefies.

It is summer, yet snow falls, and the snow becomes tainted with black. Their fantasies sail on a tenebrous dream: a vessel that transports men and women in chains. The artists feel the weight of invisible chains. Are they, too, enslaved?

When the pilgrimage is about to end, the open-eyed dreamers become aware that their summer's day lasted a life time. The bed of dreamless sleep awaits them. Figures are coming to take them. Are they ghosts, puppets or toys? What kind of life do we live, when we stop dreaming? And which tragedy or farce does the sun dance?

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) wrote in his diary how he dreamt he was invited by the king to travel on his ship. Andersen raced, panting, to the harbour but the royal vessel had already set sail. Called on board another ship, he was brutally thrown into the hold and there he realised he was part of a load of slaves.

Hans Christian Andersen's grandfather was insane and his father, a cobbler with an exacerbated sensibility, died when his son was still a child. His mother, a washerwoman, drank to keep warm while washing cloths in the river. She was considered little more than an alcoholic prostitute and died of delirium tremens in a poorhouse. Andersen kept well away from the squalor of her death. Already famous, he remained where he was, in Rome.

Since childhood, Andersen had wanted to escape from the slavery of his social condition. When only fourteen, he ran away from the poverty of his native Odense to Copenhagen, becoming a singer, ballet dancer, actor and writer. However, he never lost the anguished awareness that only through constant struggle could he break the chains of his original condition of serf, and that perhaps, in the belly of his beloved and civilised country, a people of slaves was hidden.