Michael Helmerhorst: Cat Claw is Righteous and Unstoppable Avenger

As part of the Comic Book City, programme segment of the Other? Europe programme arch, the audience will have a unique opportunity in the European Capital of Culture to see the first premiere of the Youth Theatre season – Cat Claw. The play is directed by the famous Dutch director Michael Helmerhorst and based on the comic book of the same name by Bane Kerac from Novi Sad, one of the most influential contemporary comic book artists with a worldwide career. The premiere is scheduled for 22 October at 7:30 p.m., while it will be restaged on 23 and 24 October.

The Cat Claw play is a theatre adaptation in a digital scenography of the first Serbian comic heroine Caroline Connor, who is a biology student by day and a superheroine ready to fight for justice by night. Using new technologies, a mixture of theatre and film, director Michael Helmerhorst will bring comics closer to the youngest generations and through this transformation develop a new audience interested in comics.

Michael Helmerhorst  is a director trained at the Theatre Academy in Amsterdam. In the early 1970s, he founded the Perspekt ensemble, which explored the technical possibilities of performances, and already in the early 1980s, he performed at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Civic Centre in London. The versatility and wide artistic opus of the plays he directed led him from performances and musicals to comedies. In his work, he combines various theatre techniques, so we can often see a mix of pantomime, illusion and animation, as well as special effects on stage. Do not miss this unique theatre adaptation, and in anticipation of the premiere, we spoke with the artist about the superheroine who will once again, face enemies in the fight against the forces of evil on the stage of the Youth Theatre.

The Novi Sad audience will, for the first time, in the European Capital of Culture title year, have a chance to watch live a comic book story about parallel dimensions and dangerous technologies and about a superwoman who transforms into a heroine. What can we expect on the Youth Theatre stage on 22 October, and what problems will the Cat Claw face this time?

Cat Claw has to face the confontation with two of her arch enemies: Extremety, the evil Queen of crime and Bullet the mutant leader of the Rat-people. For this occasion they collaborate against Cat Claw. The spectator is invited to visit the graphic world of a comic book in b/w contrast with a light comedy-adaption of the superhero genre.
The graphic artist Bane Kerac created an ‘asphalt jungle’ that was directly inspired by the bankrupt city of New York in the eighties and the violent ‘vigilante’movies like
“Dirty Harry” and ‘Death Wish’. A world with dark elements like that of the ‘film Noir’ In the projected images that were designed by Dusan Jovovic both stark b/w contrast and collage-lay out play a role to visualize such a ruthless underworld. Next to that the effect of this ‘collage’ resembles that of the pages of a comic book.

Majkl Helmerhorst

The Cat Claw is a heroine of the Serbian comic book of the same name by the comic book creator Bane Kerac and presents a Catwoman who is a biology student, while at night, she turns into a superheroine ready to fight for justice. Is she a combination of the two powerful, unpredictable, and mysterious creatures of dual nature? How do you perceive her character played by Ivana Vukčević?

Ivana Vukcevic combines the looks and the humor to embody these talents. Next to that she plays her (double)role as Caroline Connor the supersquare biology-
student with the right dosis of understatement. The archetype of the female superhero as depicted by Bane Kerac is an unstoppable and righteous vigilante as well as a straightforward sexbomb. Caroline Connor’s roommate Geenie Jones causes a lot of trouble while Cat Claw is busy to fight the forces of evil.

For the first time, you are directing the play in cooperation with the Youth Theatre Ensemble on this demanding project, which, it seems, is not possible without a great team. How would you describe your cooperation with actors and the atmosphere during rehearsals?

The actors of the Youth Theatre are all very pro-active and inventive finding the right angles to portray their characters.

The lead actress says you are a good and dedicated director who had well-defined drawings of each scene last summer. Do Bane’s visions and yours match, or are there any opposing opinions on how a scene based on a comic book should be staged? What are the challenges?

In re-writing the first draught of the script into a more streamlined visual story and in preparing a storyboard, rough acting outline and soundFX, I already spend a lot of time before rehearsals started. In all works in progress there are moments of slight confusion before you can go on. Translating the original English text of the script into effective Serbian was one of these problems that occured during the process.

The exciting thing about this play is its technical innovation in terms of interactive digital scenography, which is rare in theatre production in Europe…

The audiovisual tradition in theatre has without any doubt a long history and many classic examples of combining live acting and prepared (film) sequences on stage.

You dedicated a significant part of your life to theatre and film. What other types of art do you enjoy?

Next to my work as a director, I’m a long time film-collector (on 16 & 35mm) with special interest in animation films.

Autorka: Marina Marić

Foto: Vladimir Veličković

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