David and Giovanni at Nordic Black Theatre

David and Giovanni at Nordic Black Theatre

Nordic Black Theater A theatrical remake of James Baldwin’s novel “Giovanni’s Room” premieres in September.

Regarded as a cornerstone of gay literary history, the novel was published in 1956 and was ground-breaking in its accurate and direct presentation of the bisexual main character David, and his complex relationship to his own identity, masculinity and sexuality.

David White, American and traveled to Paris. He has experience of gay sex once as a teen, but he doesn’t want to admit that side of himself. He is engaged to Hela and proposes to her, but when she goes to Spain to think, he starts an affair with Italian waiter Giovanni whom he meets at a local gay bar. He is immediately attracted to Giovanni and when Giovanni looks at him, David feels as if no one has looked at him before. Their feelings soon become complicated by David’s inner turmoil and anxiety.

Shame, the myths that sustain it and the damage it can do, are central themes in Baldwin’s novel about the turbulent love affair between book narrator David and his lover Giovanni. The self-inflicted guilt stands in stark contrast to Giovanni’s apparent immunity to shame, or at least the shame that afflicts David. But it is precisely this insolence that makes Giovanni so open to the joy and love that David does not believe men can share with one another. Giovanni’s room is the only place where they can seek refuge from their homophobia in the outside world. In 1956, homosexuality was a psychiatric diagnosis and banned. David succumbs to his own inner homophobia and when Hela returns from his trip, he tries to resume his life with her. With very poor results.

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Giovanni’s Room is Baldwin’s first novel with love between men as its theme. It is also his only novel in which all the characters are white. In interviews, he said it was because he didn’t feel he could deal with the dual sufferings of racism and homophobia, but that American racism is nonetheless a theme throughout the novel, and it’s not without skin tones: Joey, David’s childhood friend who spent Night with him is repeatedly described as “brown” and “dark”, and Giovanni as “dark”. It should be noted that Italians and other Southern Europeans were seen as not white in the United States shortly before the novel was published.

“Giovanni’s Room” has been banned in many countries, and the author himself has been frozen by fellow writers, the African-American community and the civil rights movement, where he has been active for a long time. Now, Artistic Director at Nordic Black Theatre, Cliff A. Mostach, has adapted the novel for the theater and is also the director. The play, which was shown during the Oslo Pride, will be shown again in September. Dramaturg is Hana and Zain Kvam.

Like Oslo Pride, we at Nordic Black also know what it means to be outside the majority. We know what it means to not be heard. Mustache tells Blake that it’s about letting you decide which narrative you want to pass on to others on your own, and that this is met with respect.

Giovanni’s roomSeptember 5-10, Nordic Black Theatre, Hollandergata 8, Oslo.

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More information: nordicblacktheatre.no

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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