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In the dunes of Oerol, people and aliens enter into a relationship

In the dunes of Oerol, people and aliens enter into a relationship

If you cycle over the dike along the Wadden Sea and birds sail through the sky above you, melodies chirp, the overwhelming nature on Terschelling itself is like theatre. This island decor gives the performances on Oerol an extra dimension.

During the 41st edition of this theater festival, the entire Wadden Island will finally be transformed into a large festival site again. Between 10 and 19 June there will be performances in all kinds of places in the breathtaking landscapes that the island has to offer. All the natural beauty can be a masterful backdrop, but as a festival visitor it can sometimes be your worst enemy. If you sit on a wooden stand for an hour and a half in the blazing sun, for example. Or when gray clouds gather over the converted motocross track, or countless mosquitoes romp through the audience in the evening. On the island it is hard work and shelter from a shower, but after two online editions, the live program offers the experience that the Oerol visitor has been looking forward to for a long time.

Also read about Oerol 2021: The directness of theater can also be felt online

In the evenings in the forest near West-Terschelling, the largest village on the island, you can play Grace of Theater Rast. Fans of BBC hit series Killing Eve can indulge themselves here, because Oerol now has its own serial killer, who is as charismatic as he is insane: Grace, played by Charlie Chan Dagelet. She escaped the horrors of a plantation where she was forced to work, but her lover (an intriguing role by Michiel Blankwaardt) stayed behind. Grace goes over corpses to find him again.

Between the pines, director and writer Ada Ozdogan creates a bizarre western world. Two bounty hunters are drawn into Grace’s plans: a scared wannabe writer (Sidar Toksöz) and a hyper-professional bounty hunter (Denzel Goldmine). Their boss (a wonderfully playing Mattias Van de Vijver) also gets involved. The makers were inspired by the film Django unchained by Quentin Tarantino, and you can see it. The dialogues are fast and comical, fake blood splashes around.

Hassle about borders

In the wooded area around West, two performances that seem completely different at first glance: Acts of citizenship and The promised land† Yet there is a parallel: in both performances living together is accompanied by hassle about boundaries and someone pulls a weapon, as a desperate act to solve the problem.

Bee Acts of citizenship From Via Berlin, Flanders has separated from Wallonia, in a dystopian scenario by Rachida Lamrabet. There is no longer any room for ‘non-ethnic Flemings’, which means that an – increasing – group of asylum seekers is gathering at the Dutch border. Lamrabet focuses on three border guards, who must prevent the refugees from entering the country. They have very different perspectives: one follows government policy blindly; another thinks that the border should open immediately. In the rolling dune landscape, opposite the guards, more and more figures appear. There is a white area in place of their faces: they are anonymous souls, hoping for help. The nervous situation at the border is reinforced by the wind players of the Berlage Saxophone Quartet, who increase the tension with moody compositions.

Some scenes are rather schematic, because many perspectives on the refugee issue are discussed, as well as peripheral phenomena associated with a crisis: political gain, influencers or meddling celebrities. This fits in with the context of the performance: the piece was developed in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and is part of scientific research, to which the spectators are subjected. You will follow a special route and fill in questionnaires – the exact circumstances of the research may not yet be disclosed during the festival so as not to influence future visitors.

Refugees

Also in The promised country of YoungGangsters, two populations clash. In this piece, earthlings end up as refugees on another planet. Although they do not see it that way: they are ‘settlers’, who enter into negotiations directly with the local population. These tree-like creatures suck ‘nectar’ from the soil with their tentacles and speak a beautiful language, from the pen of writer Jibbe Willems. Initially, people are still tolerated, but this stops when they turn out to have a whole plan to get all the nectar from the bottom (the ‘juice cradle’). Our colonial past and the human tendency to appropriate raw materials can be heard in our dealings with the ‘new’ planet. The story is performed frantically by the players, who have the laughter on their hand as they run through the soft sand, stretch a ribbon with the audience or depict a love relationship between man and alien.

In the garden of café De Groene Weide there is an equally eccentric performance: No one is called Roseheart of the Veenfabriek. If there was a festival award for the most hysterical design, this performance would definitely win it. Between a rollator wrapped with gold paper, props from a fast food restaurant and fluorescent outfits, the story unfolds around a girl, Rozenhart, written by Koos Terpstra. Roseheart is just given away to an old rich man. When the old man dies, she inherits everything – much to the dismay of those around him. A lawsuit is filed and suitors meanwhile try to steal her heart.

There are plenty of catchy musical acts and extravagant characters, such as a meaty ‘primordial mother’ (Phi Nguyen), a dominant hunter (Sharlee Daantje) or principled farmer (Jacobien Elffers). Terpstra seems to want to say something about fairness and justice, but that message gets a bit snowed in in the lavish directing by Joeri Vos.

Newcomers

Contrasted with the spectacular festival violence of the performances by, for example, YoungGangsters and the Veenfabriek, there are more modest pieces, such as two productions by Orkater. Under the wings of the talent development trajectory Newcomers, soloist Gery Mendes created the performance Borboletas† Mendes plays a son whose father came to the Netherlands from Cape Verde. In the monologue, directed by Benji Reid, Mendes supplements spoken scenes with sung moments, accompanying himself on guitar or rhythmically scraping metal with a knife. The centerpiece is a ruin: the house in father’s homeland, which should have been a palace, which would be passed on from generation to generation. In the decor of Zico Lopes, some beams rest on poles, which pierce two sofas. These pieces of furniture seem to sink into the ground – time has caught up with father’s dreams.

Like Mendes, Newcomers collective Uma delves into the European colonial past with the performance Oroonoko about the life story of a Ghanaian prince as described in a seventeenth-century novella. The prince was enslaved and put to work on a plantation, but became friends with the plantation owner, as British writer Aphra Behn described. Players Carmen van Mulier, Jamie Grant and Cripta Scheepers deliver this narrative in beautiful, measured scenes. Stylized moments are sometimes stopped and those images could be illustrations from the novella. Between white sets – a staircase and a row of arches – in a valley in the Hoornse Bos, they play the protagonist, his lover or the plantation owner. The actresses have no fixed characters, they always take over the roles from each other. Their playing is powerful and flawless.

In addition, percussionist Jimmi Jo Hueting provides a varied soundtrack, in which sounds from the seventeenth century resound between electronic beats. Oroonoko is a feast for the eyes and convinces with its commentary on the original story, so much so that you completely forget the countless stinging mosquitoes.

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