The House Taken Over

The House Taken Over is the story of a grown-up brother and his sister living together in a house that has been property of their family for generations. The past that lead to this situation is unclear, and the fact that there’s only two of them shapes their limited and repetitive daily routines. Besides the demonstratively well-organized act of keeping the house clean, it is only the sister’s over-committed knitting that seems to catch their attention; their life is quiet and circles around contents and things that others might find boring or even hollow. However, beneath that bland surface something of much less banality determines the daily routine. 

Brother and sister feel that they are being pursued by an unknown threat which they never get to see or actually confront but which they know is there anyway, only noticeable as indefinable noises in the house. In order to protect themselves from that nebulous threat they shut all parts of the house that are occupied by noises. By the time the areas where the man and Irene can actually live get smaller and smaller; beyond that the siblings are increasingly being deprived of their everyday commodities that have to be left behind in the taken sections. Finally the only way for the two to escape is to leave their house – their only purpose in life – behind.

The House Taken Over starts as a realistic story that slowly is being undermined of by fantastic elements, with the appearance of an unknown entity taking over the power. In the end the nature of that mystical threat remains as irritating and unsolved in its existence as the characters do: they never reveal their motivations, the reason of their fear and –most importantly– their relationship to each other nor the strange power they allow to take over their house and lives.

Inspired by a novella by Julio Cortázar, the Portuguese composer Vasco Mendonça and the English dramaturge Sam Holcroft immerse themselves in the secrets of a couple played matchlessly by two singers, who in their turn are backed up by an instrumental chamber ensemble. The director Katie Mitchell aims to transpose what remains unspoken, as well as the disturbing alienation of the story, to the stage.


Premiere 6 July 2013 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

The House Taken Over
The House Taken Over


  • MUSIC Vaco Mendonça
  • LIBRETTIST Sam Holcroft
  • LIBRETTO after Julio Cortázar's House Taken Over
  • STAGE DIRECTION Katie Mitchell
  • DRAMATURGIST Lyndsey Turner
  • MUSICAL DIRECTION Etienne Siebens
  • SINGERS Oliver Dunn or Edward Grint (deSingel Antwerp - le maillon Strasbourg) (baritone) & Kitty Whately (mezzosoprano)
  • ORCHESTRA ASko|Schönberg : Frank Braafhart (trumpet, flugelhorn), Heleen Hulst (violin), Saleem Khan (trumpet, flugelhorn), David Kweksilber (clarinet, bass clarinet), Jeannette Landré (flute, alto flute, piccolo, base flute), Joey Marijs (percussion), Marijke van Kooten (viola), Jan Erik van Regteren Altena (violin), Pieter Smithuijsen (Antwerp, Strasbourg) or Quirijn van Regteren Altena (double bass), Toon van Ulsen (trombone, didgeridoo), Bernadette Verhagen or Richard Wolfe (Strasbourg) (viola), Anna voor de Wind (clarinet, bass clarinet), Hans Woudenberg (violoncello)
  • STAGE DESIGN Alex Eales
  • LIGHTS James Farncombe
  • COSTUME DESIGN John Bright



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