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Seeing John Malkovich

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By Julie Kavanagh On a cool Wednesday evening in mid May, Brussels residents thronged to see renowned actor John Malkovich in Michael Sturminger's 'The Infernal Comedy', described as ‘a stage-play for a Baroque Orchestra, two Sopranos and one actor’. Intrigued, Cafebabel Brussels went along to find out more.

The full title, 'The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer' held all the promise of the darker roles that Malkovich cultivates. His best-known film roles are renegade characters that repel and attract in equal measure. So bringing Austrian serial killer-turned-celebrity author-turned serial killer, John Unterweger, (back) to life seemed a good fit.

Taking my seat, I wondered idly were we here to see The Infernal Comedy the play, or ‘John Malkovich’ the man? The promoters seemed to know their market from the outset. Posters emblazoned with Malkovich’s quizzical, brooding stare had dotted Brussels since early Spring, proclaiming his appearance at the BOZAR theatre. The actual performance seemed secondary to the fact that the man with the voice was coming to town.

Bathed in a soft orange glow the orchestra opens centre stage, but the discordant tones of Gluck’s musical interpretation of Don Juan’s Descent into Hell reminds us that this is no mere evening of chamber music. As silence descends....Enter Malkovich stage right. Audience applause.

Separating from reality was at first haphazard. He compares Brussels theatres, talks about the curse of being called John, Johannes, Jack, Jacques... We're all following Malkovich, he's playing Unterweger...we're thinking John Malkovich, he's meaning Jack Unterweger.


It’s like Malkovich Stand-up Comedy Live, and we laugh along. Until 10 minutes later we're still laughing, but now the humour is darker and it is more a guilty giggle as Unterweger roams around the stage in a posthumous publicity tour for his auto-biography. Your regular, white-suited, urbane, unhinged murderer not only unapologetic but revelling in his killing spree success. And oh did I mention he’s dead…No, not just in real life, but also in the play…a bizarre night of entertainment.