In Death in Venice - Thomas Mann's 1912 novella and Luchino Visconti's 1972 film - we see von Aschenbach's disintegration
as the older man becomes increasingly obsessed by the beautiful youth Tadzio. Although the two never speak, the boy Tadzio is clearly aware of the older man's attention and a silent relationship grows between them that lasts until the writer's final day on the Lido beach.
What went through the boy's mind when he realised what was happening? Did he welcome or fear the writer's gaze?
What impact did their encounter have on him? Decades later Tadzio looks back at that fateful summer in Venice.
Tadzio Speaks . . . is a one-man play by Martin Foreman, whose work
includes two novels and two short story collections, as well as the collection of one-actor plays
("utterly convincing, portraits of love in California's emotional desert"
In 2013 and 2014, a production directed by Martin and featuring Christopher Peacock as Tadzio, was presented at the
Lord Stanley and Etcetera Theatres in London and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Produced by Arbery Productions.
Thanks to Christopher Annus, who performed A Sense of Loss (an earlier version of this play) in 2012, for his contribution and help in the development of
Tadzio Speaks . . .
An audio version of the play, retitled Death on the Lido and performed by John Vernon, is also available:
In the summer of 1911, German writer Thomas Mann,
his wife and his brother took a holiday on the Adriatic Coast, first on the island of Brioni, then in Venice, where they stayed at the luxurious Hôtel Des Bains on the Lido. On their first evening, while waiting for the gong for dinner, Mann's eye was drawn by the physical beauty and grace of the young son of a Polish family.
Eleven-year-old Władisław Moes ("Adzio" to his family) aged three years and became Tadzio in the novella Death in Venice, which Mann wrote and published the following year (Adzio's young friend Jas also appears as Jaschiu). Mann becomes Gustav von Aschenbach, an aging widowed writer traveling alone. (In the Luchino Visconti
film of 1972 Aschenbach is a composer and there are other minor changes.)
Both novel and film focus on Aschenbach's life and thoughts and Tadzio is no more than a cypher. But if we accept that the writer was real, so too must be the object of his obsession. Finally,
Tadzio Speaks . . .
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