Media & credits
A production by Kuno Bakker and Jorn Heijdenrijk
Based on the amoral, crude thought experiments undertaken by the French doctor/philosopher Julien Offray de la Mettrie (1709 -1751)
“Everything comes to an end with death; allow me to repeat it, there is an emptiness, an infinite nothing. Everything has been said and everything done. The sum of the good is equal to the sum of the bad. No worries anymore, no problems, no roles to play: ‘the comedy is over.’”
Julien Offray de la Mettrie
The beauty of the unpredictable
Little man with a big dick is based on the ideas of doctor/philosopher Julien Offray de la Mettrie (1709-1751) and refer to the essay with the same title that De la Mettrie wrote shortly before his death. De la Mettrie is an atheist and materialist. He has a dubious reputation and his writings end up being burned in France. After fleeing the country, he settles in Leiden, a city well-known to him from the time he attended lectures given by the reputable Dr. Boerhaave. Here he writes L’Homme machine (Man as a machine) in which he asserts that mind and body work according to the mechanical laws and principles of science.
De la Mettrie contests the distinction between mind and body and thereby also life after death. Man is addicted to physical love, according to this exuberant scientist, he is not concerned with his spiritual welfare, but with his orgasm instead. With these notions De la Mettrie turns himself against the prevalent moral of good and evil, thereby attacking the foundations of church and state. In his view, man has been conditioned to feel regret and remorse and this prevents him from achieving happiness.
‘Every attempt to feel free or to act as a free person results in a feeling of guilt. The here and now, which imprisons you from the start, is good – always labelled as such, the ever prevailing good.’
In his plea for happiness, he encourages people to pursue their passions. Life is unpredictable and happens in extremis. The here and now is all that matters. That dynamism also defines the theatre that derives its strength and beauty from the unpredictability of the moment.
Little man with a big dick is about the freedom to think and act, off as well as on stage. In a kaleidoscope of text, images and music, the performance circles around the convention of marriage,
an institution in which happiness and freedom are particularly at odds.
The title is perhaps best put into perspective by the words of De la Mettrie’s contemporary and fellow countryman, De Sade:
S: Friends, behold, the biggest dick of the western hemisphere – and the smallest brain. Tell me, ignorant swine: are you really as dumb as you look?
A: Perhaps – but I’m smarter than before.
D: Brilliant! I say brilliant. But boy, I’ve heard you have a considerable dick. Would you be so kind as to demonstrate it to us?
A: What does that word mean: demonstrate?
D: Jesus, he really is vacuous. Take it out, you poor son of a whore. Take it out.
A: As you wish, sir.
D: My god. Smaller snakes have caused me to flee.
H: Tell me, are there any bigger ones?
S: I haven’t seen them.
D: Nor have I. Not with horses, not with bulls, not with giraffes…
S: There must be a universal disproportionality between dicks and brains.
Julien Offray de la Mettrie is perhaps best characterized by the description of fellow countryman and contemporary Diderot:
La Mettrie is a writer without vision, who fails to write a single good sentence in his essay on happiness;
whose frivolous mind is recognizable to everybody through what he says, and his corrupted heart by what he dare not mention;
who seems to reassure the criminal in committing his crime, and the pervert with his vice;
whose fallacies (dangerous through their cheerful tone) show a writer devoid of moral awareness, that immense tree of which the crown reaches to the heavens and the roots penetrate hell.
whose chaotic thoughts and debauchery only invoke revulsion, except for those trivial readers who will believe anything if it makes them laugh;
whose principles, carried through to their ultimate conclusion, would overthrow the law, oust parents from their role as upbringers and discourage the man who tries desperately to fight against his degenerate urges;
who is so confused in his mind, whose ideas are so inconsistent, that a correct assertion collides with a ridiculous claim on the same page, and a ridiculous claim with a correct assertion, so they are just as easy to defend as condemn.