Photo by the Black Grace crew from their Facebook page
Saturday I saw Black Grace perform in the Schouwburg. Black Grace is a New Zealand dance company led by Neil Ieremia. Ieremia choreographs dances inspired by and drawn upon both his Samoan heritage and the current world of New Zealand. They’re doing a tour of the Netherlands with a show called Verse 3: a collection of five short works and excerpts of various older works.
Pati Pati (2009) was the first. It’s a mix of fragments from four other works using Samoan seated dance (Sasa) and slap dancing (Fa’ataupati). It has pieces from Relentless (1998), Black Grace (1995), Fia Ola (1998) and Amata (2007). I really loved this because of the rhythm and repetition. It’s meditative.
The second was Human Language (2002), a work inspired by the body language of men and women when they start getting romantically interested in each other. It also mimics various forms of mating behaviour. It starts out, for example, by the men blowing up colourful balloons. As the girl parades in front of them they raise their heads so the balloons hang at throat level. Similar to how some birds inflate their necks to show of their vibrant neck and belly feathers. As the girl turns them down, they let go of the balloons in defeat, letting them shoot away as they deflate.
Gathering Clouds (2009) was made in answer to an article in a New Zealand newspaper. The article went on about how Pacific Island immigrants to New Zealand had the lowest education levels, were most represented in prison, most without jobs and so on, basically saying they were bad for New Zealand. This pissed Neil off so made this work to deal with his feelings and show that things aren’t perfect, they evolve and change and unrest comes from that, and helps with that. The dance starts with strong Samoan influences, traditional dancing and traditional music and halfway through morphs into more modern dancing on a number of Goldberg Variations by Bach to show that yes, we’re all different, but we’re all also the same.
Mother Mother (2013) was choreographed on request of New Zealand group Fat Freddy’s Drop. They wrote a song called Mother Mother and wanted Neil to make a dance for the videoclip. Ieremia refused a couple times but eventually agreed. The work starts out with a lot of physical manipulation of the body culminating in the literal raising up of women as a symbol for how Mothers help their kids up.
The final piece, Minoi (1999), is traditional. It is a Samoan song which literally means to wiggle. It starts with a woman singing the song and then blends with the dancers. They appear behind her and take over the singing. Mixing it with slap dancing and turning the song into a round it becomes a mantra.
Caligula is a play written by Albert Camus just before World War two. It tells the story of the cruel Roman Emperor Caligula. He loses his sister and lover Drusilla and cannot deal with this. After wandering in the fields for three days he returns with an absolutist world view. Unable to deal with the relativitiy of everything, and most notably, happiness, he enters a reign of terror.
Everything becomes literal, freedom absolute. If a man desires his neighbour’s wife, he takes her. And if the neighbour stands in the way, everything is valid to remove the neighbour as an obstacle. Caligula’s word becomes literal law, marked by randomness and terror. In between these scenes, there’s moments where Caligula speaks with his mistress or one of his advisers and we get philosophical musings about the nature of existence.
I saw it yesterday, in the Schouwburg, performed by the Toneelhuis.
Because the play was originally performed for the first time after the World War, it has generally been interpreted as indictment against abuse of power and dictatorship. With the current international climate of extremism it’s gained a new poignancy.
I enjoyed the modern touches in appearance and set-dressing. The use of movable video panels as a sort of ceiling/back panel was very effective in framing the stage. The actors were really good, in particular Kevin Janssens as Caligula.
Yay, my Oosterpoort & Schouwburg theatre tickets for the coming season have arrived! I have eight shows in the Oosterpoort and the Schouwburg to go to, and then there’s also two shows in MartiniPlaza this year.
Shakespeare’s King Lear is an elderly king who decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He asks them to declare their love for him, the best declaration gets the biggest iece. The elder two children do so, but the youngest refuses to play this game. Angrily, King Lear gives her share to her sisters and she leaves for France with her new husband. The remaining sisters immediately show their true natures and treat their father like an old man, and even planning to murder him. During this, Lear flees the house in a great storm and loses his mind.
The youngest daughter plans to invade the realm to help her father and defeat her sisters, but she is captures and sentenced to death. The other daughters then destroy each other in jealousy over the same man, with the one poisoning the other, and then killing herself when the man in question turns out to be fatally wounded. With his last breath, the man revokes the death sentence, but it is too late, the daughter is dead, and seeing her body, Lear dies as well.
Tom Lanoye wrote a modern interpretation of this play for the Toneelgroep Amsterdam. The story lines have been compressed a bit: Gloucester as a character has been removed and his part has been merged with Kent. The setting is now a modern day business in 2008 (just before the economic crisis), and King Lear is now Queen Lear, with the part written for (and with) Frieda Pittoors.
Elizabeth Lear is the CEO of Lear Inc. A world-spanning business at the top of its power, started by her father and further built up by her husband until his death. She rules with an iron hand but she is getting older, and as such has decided to split the business in threes, one part for each of her sons. At the board meeting she interrupts Kent (played by Gijs Scholten van Aschat), who wishes to celebrate recent acquisitions, and declares her intentions. She asks her eldest son Gregory (played by Roeland Fernhout) to declare his love for her. He is unprepared, and initially unwilling, but manages to spin a tale and gets his portfolio.
Then it’s Hendrik, or Henry’s turn (played by Jip van den Dool who I also saw in Mary Stuart back in December), he also manages to spin a tale and receives his portfolio. The youngest, Cornald (played by Alwin Pulinckx), however, refuses. He loves his mother, but he will not play this game. Elizabeth is furious. She gives his part to Hendrik to divide between him and Gregory and disowns Cornald. Kent, who has been her friend and adviser for years, tries to defend him, upon which she fires him, too. Mama Lear then decrees that she will live with each of the brothers for a month at a time with her entourage, starting with Gregory.
Cornald travels to Asia to make a name for himself in micro-finance, supported by Kent who has given him contacts to start with. Gregory and Henry divide the rest, and try to keep the business, well, in business. Henry is a true businessman, he knows what he’s doing, Gregory has less business sense, he’s more in it for the money. It’s not long before tragedy starts to strike. Cornald has little success in Asia, and is being extorted and threatened to give up the business secrets of Lear Inc. The dividing of the company has scared investors and stockholders and the stocks are plummeting. Gregory and Henry try within their ability, but they can’t turn the tide.
While this happens Queen Lear tries her best to stay relevant and on top of things, manipulating the people around her as she has always done. But things are changing. Her mind is slipping, she becomes forgetful and doesn’t always recognize people anymore. Alzheimer’s is getting its clutches into her. This is good for Kent, as this allows him to stick around and try to help her, and Cornald, for whom he has a soft spot.
Besides Kent there is also Oleg, Queen Lear personal assistant and caretaker. He’s a young immigrant from Eastern Europe who sends most of the money he makes back home to his mother. Because of that, he feels deeply for Queen Lear as she reminds him of his own mother. This is not explicitly said in the play, but we had the luck that the introduction to the play was an interview with Vanja Rukavina, who plays Oleg, which gave us some extra insight into his character and the relationship between him and Queen Lear.
As the business is going under, Queen Lear is forced to cull the number of servants. She protests heavily but both brothers will not budge. Oleg calls his mother to tell her that he will not be able to send more money as the business is not doing well. We can’t understand this, as the conversation is in Bosnian, but Rukavina lifted the veil on that for those who were at the introduction 🙂
After the call, Queen Lear comes in, dejected, angry, confused, and in need of kindness and love. Her underlying attraction to Oleg comes to the surface and she tries to seduce him. While unwilling at first, he eventually consents and they end up in bed together.
This scene was added at the specific request of Frieda Pittoors, who wanted to explore a relationship that is still often seen as taboo. Older men with young trophy wives or lovers are generally applauded for landing such a conquest, while an older woman with a young boyfriend or husband is seen as weird.
After another argument with her sons and their wives, Queen Lear runs out of the building, into a terrible storm. She wanders around, lost, desolate and in the grip of her disease. She throws a monologue into the storm before she is found by Oleg who tries to take her home. They meet a homeless junk who she, in her delirium, mistakes for her youngest son Cornald (not quite coincidentally played by the same actor :D).
Eventually, Queen Lear is back home, still lost in her mind. Cornald has returned home, but she does not recognise him. The children fight over the downfall of the company. Henry has a plan to save what remains, Gregory is mostly on board, but Cornald disagrees. Kent is also present, still blinded from an earlier fight where Gregory attacked him. And so, with all present, tension mounts, drama unfolds and we move towards the inevitable tragedy of death, and a woman permanently lost in her own mind.
The play is a masterful adaptation of the original. The changes have made the story stronger, and relevant for current society. The actors are all quite good, but Frieda Pittoors knocks her part out of the park, she is fantastic. She manages to convey the loss of self through Alzheimer so very well.
Wednesday, Mom and I went to the Schouwburg to see Sara Kroos play her latest show “Van Jewelste”. Sara Kroos is someone I’ve seen on TV and always liked, she’s spontaneous but does always seem to make a point. So when Mom suggested we go see her back when I was deciding which shows to go to, I happily agreed,
As it begins, Sara enters the stage and starts telling about her life, obviously fictionalized or embellished in places, but I believe it has a significant core of truth in it. She tells us how her parents showed up at her door to tell her that they had bought the house next door, isn’t that fun! From there she slips in a flashback to an earlier moment where her mother embarrassed her, and from there on to another story and so on. She occasionally comes back to the present day situation, but other than that she jumps back and forth through time in a period of about four or so years.
The stories are hilarious and the jokes she makes are very funny. She’s good at improv so she reacts very well with what the audience is saying. Particularly a gentleman who, at a slightly risque joke made an oh-oh-ho kinda sound. She jumped on that and warned us, with a great smile, that if we thought that was much, we’d better not listen to the rest. And true to her word, that wasn’t the most risque joke by a long shot 😀
In between stories she sits down at the piano and sings a song. And the songs are the counterweights to all the laughter of the stories. They are calmer, and more serious and light the other side of parents and different generations and time, which are the main themes of the show. And by combining these elements, she really drives the point that time goes ever on.
Especially since I’m of a similar age as she is, and my parents are of a similar age as hers are, a lot of the things she said, and sang, hit home. You reach this point in your life where you’re in the middle. Your parents are still young and healthy enough to have a life of their own, you have your live (generally busy) and your children are doing their thing. And you look around and you kinda want to freeze the moment and keep it like this forever. Because it’s never going to be as good as it is now.
With time, there will come a day when you no longer think “oh, at least they’re still healthy” but it shifts to “at least they’re still here” and then they’re not. And you shift from annoyance and embarrasment at what your parents do to endearment at what they do, the older they get. And the same with children; who grow up and become more independent and eventually move out. And through all that, you need to realise that things always change, there will always be new moments that are good, or awesome, or fantastic, or even just sorta okay, but even the most awesomest thing is an individual thing. And as such, nothing is ever going to be as good as it was right at the moment you experienced it.
So yeah, many feels. And I was really happy I got to see this show with Mom.
Afterwards, Sara sold CDs with the songs from the show from the stage and would sign them, so Mom and I made our way there and each bought a copy.
Yesterday I went to see the play Mary Stuart, written by Friedrich Schiller. It was performed by Toneelgroep Amsterdam together with Toneelhuis, from Ghent, and directed by Ivo van Hove. It features Chris Nietveld as Queen Elizabeth and Halina Reijn as Mary Stuart. The play covers the final months of Mary Stuarts captivity. She has been convicted of treason, for which the sentence is death, but the sentencing, by the Queen, has not yet been done. The Queen is in doubt. One the one hand, she cannot let Mary live, she will always be a threat to her reign, and it will make her seem weak. On the other hand, she also can’t order the execution, as she is then directly responsible for killing another queen, which will incite the part of the populace that is sympathetic to Mary.
The play is fairly cerebral. It is sparse in decor and costume. A bare back wall with some benches in front for the actors to sit on while they wait their turns, a door in the middle for dramatic exits and entrances. The actors are all dressed in black. The men in costume, the women in basic dresses. All the attention is on the lines, the delivery, the interplay between the characters as they speak, fight, beg, command and despair.
The moment where Elizabeth and Mary meet, even though they never did in real life, is the the best part, performance wise. They speak of their lives as ruling women in a men’s world. About power, about responsibility, loneliness, strength and the perception of weakness, and about personal and public lives. About knowing that they are more than just Elizabeth and Mary, they know these are the moments of History. What they do then and there, is what History will reduce them to.
At the end, when the execution has been ordered, in a round-about way, we see the only moment of extravagance. Mary Stuart appears, dressed as we all know her from paintings and descriptions. No longer herself, she is (and knows it) now just the historical figure, about to be executed, about to be placed on the wrong side of History. When the deed is done, Elizabeth appears, likewise dressed as we all know her. She knows that, whatever her personal feelings on the matter, she, too, has been placed in the annals of History to be judged by the generations after her.
The only thing I couldn’t really get into was a bit in the middle where Elizabeth goes a walking, and dances in the park with one of her underlings. And since they chose, for the music, an electronic rendition of music of that period, the dance is also a weird, modern thing that I didn’t really like.
That notwithstanding, the play is excellent and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible!
I’m back from a glorious night out with Mommy dear. We had dinner at Het Feithhuis on their back terrace. It was a lovely place to sit, but it got a bit chilly quicker than expected. We had an amuse with potato cream and paprika and something, it was quite tasty. For the main course, I had steak and Mom went with chicken. The dessert was the best, it was a platter for two with seven or so (per person) tiny dessert items like pastries, ice cream, fruit and combinations thereof.
After that, we walked towards the Schouwburg to go see Daniel Lohues perform. He writes and sings beautiful songs about life in the dialect of Drenthe. Songs that are deceptively simple and straightforward and can hit you like a brick. Between the songs he told stories and anecdotes in typical Lohues fashion. All in all, it was a wonderful performance.
A few weeks ago Mom saw a review in the paper of a show by C3, called ‘Wil je in ons groepje?’ (Do you wanna be in our group). She mentioned it to me and indicated she’d like to see it. They were doing one show near here, and that was exactly on her birthday. So I asked her, for confirmation, if she wanted to go, and got us tickets.
Since I did have to work before hand, and the show didn’t start until 20:15, we decided to go out to eat as well. For ease, we decided upon the restaurant at the theater.
So, last night was the night. Mom picked me up at work, and we drove the short distance to the Oosterpoort theater. After parking we headed inside. We were a bit early for our reservation, but we could get seated early. After getting drinks served, the waiter discussed the menu with us. Because Cristina Branco was also performing at the Oosterpoort yesterday, they were having a Portuguese menu and were there any dietary things we needed. We both let him know that the starter, a fish soup, was not something we would like. Fortunately, the vegetarian option sounded great so we opted for that.
Shortly after, the starter was served, a truly delicious courgette soup with cheese and cream. The main course was a skewer with chicken, beef and pork served with roasted veggies, skin-baked potato and salad (nom nom nom!). While we were eating, I decided to check our tickets to see which of the halls we had to be. That’s when I realised something. We were in the wrong theater…
Instead of the show being at the Oosterpoort, it was at the Stadschouwburg, the theater they’re connected with. We had a good laugh about it, what else can you do. I’d had the tickets for a few weeks already but never really bothered to read them properly, and we’d only seen mentions of Oosterpoort near the review so we totally missed it.
Fortunately our dessert (melon slices with orange flavoured ice cream and a vanilla pastry with cream) arrived shortly so that, combined with our arriving early to begin with, gave us enough time to walk to the Stadschouwburg. We arrived there with about twenty minutes to spare. Had we been on time for dinner, we’d have been late for the show 😀
The show itself was quite good. C3 is a a cabaret/comedy group consisting of Mike Boddé, Onno Innemee and, this theater season, Jelka van Houten. They sang songs, some more comedic in nature, some more serious. It started off with Jelka singing a love song about New York. Not because New York is that great, but because the person she loves comes from New York. Onno sang a great comedic ‘cuntry’ song about being a cowboy. Halfway through the song it became clear through the lyrics that instead of being a real cowboy singing, it was a boy singing about playing cowboy and the patrons of the local cafe getting quite sick of his repeated Hyippi-ya-yays.
Mike played the piano throughout the evening (he is absolutely great at that) to accompany the songs. At some point Jelka sang a lovely song about not being able to sleep and begging Mr. Goldberg to help her. This led to Mike explaining to her the story behind it, and how it had led to this beautiful piece of music, the Goldberg Variations. In short: there was this count who had trouble sleeping so he went to Johann Sebastian Bach and asked him to compose him some music that he could have played by his court harpsichord (klavecimbel) player, Mr. Goldberg.
Mike then elaborated that the Goldberg Variations are basically the hardest thing to play for a pianist, and that he could not play it all. However, he knew the basic chord structure, so he could make his own Variations. Which he then did: Goldberg à la blues, Goldberg à la Mozart, Goldberg à la Chopin… It was very awesome.
He also dit a dramatic reading about a nice smelling man in a language built of archaic words, screwed around current words and screwed around translations of english words. The way in which he read this (as if he were preaching) and the speed with which he could speak all those out of the ordinary words is a total turn-on for me (I looooove words and language).
Too bad there’s no videos of this, or his Goldberg Variations online, even to just show a hint. Mike Boddé is brilliant with a piano and words.
There were also sketches. This was for me a much more mixed bag. I did not much care for most of them. I just found them unfunny and I had trouble finding the through line of the show and I do like me a through line. Random assortments of things without a discernible connection throw me off, especially when a show’s description makes me believe there is supposed to be a through line.
After the show, we quickly headed back to the car and went home for today was an early start. We had a great night.