This theater year was the year of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Daria Bukvic

Presentation of the year
Lady Chatterley’s Loverby De Warme Winkel

How heartbreakingly beautiful theater can be. On the basis of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the erotic novel by DH Lawrence, Florian Myjer and Lisa Verbelen put sexual morality on the cutting table. Despite opposing temperaments – Myjer fervently, Verbelen coolly – they expose the same lines in their analyzes and candidly told experiences: of homosexual men and women swallowed up by history.

The most beautiful ten-minute theater of the year? After an hour, Myjer breaks loose in an explosive diatribe about the existential isolation of the gay man, which gradually increases. Gays on television in film, he says, were always either the victim or the joke or the killer. “I never saw myself in anything. Where was I?” Only in porn movies did he see gay men without any problems. He identified himself with women who, like him, were attracted to men: Bridget Jones, Julia Roberts, et cetera. “All men who were complex, intelligent and layered have spent ages gathering dust in a drawer.”

He weaves the word ‘alone’ through his sentences like a mantra: “The gay man grows up alone and stays alone.” Myjer sounds increasingly grim and tormented when he says that for a gay man who was not alone, he must go back to the Greeks and Romans, to a time “when the Christian settlers did not wreak havoc.”

While the volume also increases, he speaks of other hunted people, but at least they are still together in their mass grave. With a sense of sarcasm: “Although there may be a gay in between, because there is always a gay in between!” After which he returns in a last cry of despair to the lonely Lady Constance and her forbidden love for the gamekeeper from the novel: “I’m Connie! Tormented! Caught. Alone!”

After a short silence, Lisa Verbelen counters laconically with her version of history, in which there are no lesbian heroines: “Being a lesbian has never been forbidden, because it did not exist.” After which she closes with her trump card: “The only thing that is hated in the gay is the woman.” Their joust is bursting with compassion for all those forgotten men and women and is at the same time an inspired ode to sex and love, against the prevailing heterosexual norm.

Nota bene: A brilliant performance like this shows what theater can do and provides fuel for many theater visits, in search of more.

Only in porn movies did I see gays without problems

Florian Myjero The Warm Store

Theater maker of the year
Daria Bukvic

What a year it was for Daria Bukvic. On June 1, 2021 she became officially the new artistic director of Toneelgroep Oostpool† That appointment can be written in golden letters after just one year.

In the autumn, Bukvic made it sizzling from subcutaneous tension Girls & Boysin which she starred Hadewych Minis in a solo, and this spring she directed Midsummer Night’s Dreamaccording to colleague Marijn Lems, “the best Shakespeare adaptation in years” and “a dream wedding of entertainment and engagement”.

Girls & Boys was selected last week by the Dutch Toneeljury as one of the best performances of the year and Hadewych Minis was nominated this week for the Theo d’Or, for best actress.

Bukvic, only 32, has been a name since her stage hit Nobody Home in 2014. Also Milk & dates and her Othelloadaptation were memorable performances and a masterclass in various, including theater, that gives room to new voices. The actors Vanja Rukavina, Majd Mardo and Saman Amini from Nobody Home, then great unknowns, are now established names. The same goes for Soumaya Ahouaoui and Fadua El Akchaoui from Milk & Dates

With two performances that are among the best of the season, Bukvic is the crown princess of Dutch theater in several respects.

Theme of the year
What is the standard?

If contemporary theater does anything, it is questioning who or what is the norm. Are white people the norm, do the performances about racism and slavery (van The Gliphoeve until I say sorry† Are men the norm, question the performances about female strength and survival instinct (van Girls & Boys until Grace† Is wealth the norm, do the performances about surviving in poverty (van Fights and metamorphoses of a woman until There’s nothing to get here† Is heterosexuality the norm, questions about exclusion and homosexual love (van Lady Chatterley’s Lover until Edward II, the Gay King

Are normal people the norm? That ultimate, intriguing question asked the Australian Back to Back Theater in the very smart The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes (which was shown at the Brussels Kunstenfestivaldesarts), in which three actors with intellectual disabilities discuss their disability. “Normal people are not normal,” they say. And: “Normal people scare me.” They’re damn funny.

They are also not well intelligible, which means that surtitles run along with them, which they also joke about. They even talk to the translation computer. That leads to a reflection on a time when robots will dominate “normal people.” Which puts normal people in the position where they see themselves now: ‘They’ will have to fight to be heard, ‘they’ will be surrounded by low expectations. And so on.

‘Normal people’ have a lot to ask themselves.

Trend of the year (1)
Long live the matinee

There was no ball on the teevee, but there was a matinee. At the end of November, theaters had to close from 5 p.m. and suddenly matinee performances were bubbling up everywhere. Saturday and Sunday afternoons to New Year’s Eve performances by Peter Pannekoek and Najib Amhali in Carré and then have the entire empty evening to yourself. You could quickly get used to that daily schedule.

Trend of the year (2)
The recapture of the public

Much discussed by the public and theaters is the decline in ticket sales. After the reopening of the theaters this winter, some performances were packed. But not everywhere the public returned in droves.

Sometimes that was scary. The Oude Luxor, for example, is a huge box of uncomfortable chairs if only the first rows are occupied, I noticed when I visited Fortuyn by Toneelgroep Jan Vos, a performance that deserved better. Even the popular Oerol, the largest theater festival in the Netherlands, attracted visibly fewer visitors last week (from 50,000 in 2019 to 43,000 this year). It was relatively quiet on Terschelling, although the performances were still well attended (from 110,000 tickets sold to 92,000; occupancy rate 82 percent).

That lost audience must be recaptured. Or should less be made? That is the question. For the Oerol-goer, less crowds were only pleasant: the bicycle paths were less life-threatening and there was always a chair free on the terrace.

Annoyance of the year
The theater hooligan

Photographing theatergoers are a new scourge. The glowing, attention-grabbing screen has been an annoyance for some time at pop concerts, but it is also on the rise in theaters.

In The Cherry Garden at the Holland Festival, a woman went to photograph Isabelle Huppert at her leisure, in the front row, just at a fragile moment in the performance.

There was no escaping it on Oerol. During every performance there was a theater hooligan photographing, or god better, filming. Perhaps the everyday, accessible locations (dune pans, forest, barns) are to blame for the misconception that photography is okay.

The tricky part is that correcting someone during a performance is just as disruptive as the violation. Even tapping someone, as I did once, feels like an intrusion into someone else’s concentration.

Theater need not take place in an atmosphere of holiness, but this behavior is the other extreme. It would be nice if this disrespectful trend was suppressed. In football, hooligans caught in misconduct are banned from stadiums. hashtag just saying

Experience of the year
The theater hooligan

For the first time, a visitor next to me went to watch TV on her phone during a performance. And equally unique: I didn’t care and I understood. On stage Stefano Keizers had started something that was going to take a long time. If you don’t want to know, skip this part: he had begun counting, in concert with the audience, to an endlessly high number.

His performance Hans Teeuwen is the ultimate meta-theatre, undoubtedly a terminal in the genre ‘public contempt’. Keizers claims to have no material and proves it with ninety minutes of theatrical impotence. With the counting as climax: there is nothing more annoying and yet part of the audience clapped enthusiastically. The rest looked around in defeat or watched TV. The comedian also drove me to theater hooliganism: I checked Teletext to see whether the Dutch national team had already scored.

Worst show of the year
Una imagen interiorby El Conde de Torrefiel

There must also be a worst show of the year. Just as inspired theater can make you rejoice, so bad theater can paralyze you. That happened this season at Una imagen interior by the Spanish collective El Conde de Torrefiel (also at Kunstenfestivaldesarts).

The Spaniards are an internationally recognized guest. Last year they were present at the Groningen Noorderzon festival with two performances and in 2020 they played at the Amsterdam Brandhaarden festival. Their cultureon Noorderzon, was the most bizarre show of the year: a man and a woman acted out a casting for a porn film, with lifelike sex acts.

The line between challenging, astonishing theater and pretentious experiments is very thin

In Una imagen interior is not spoken, but text appears on a light bar above the stage, where an immense canvas with an ‘action painting’ à la Jackson Pollock hangs. The actors play museum visitors. Even when the painting is gone, nothing significant happens. Until a new canvas is rolled out, covered with paint, folded in half, unfolded and hung up.

The lyrics are just as empty as the action. Like a long passage to the effect that there is no more art when “the bomb” falls. Well. Or they are pompous, like an explanation of the limiting power of rectangles in our thinking (a house! the telephone!), compared to the way nature grows. With much quasi-profoundness along the lines of: “The fire limits the space of the night.”

This performance can also be seen this summer at the theater festival in Avignon and at the Ruhrtriennale. The Flemish newspaper The morning gave four stars: „This theater is not for everyone: Una imagen interior is an imaginary journey on which you have to want to go, a room full of wonder to which you have to find an entrance yourself. That will not work for everyone: the line between challenging, surprising theater and pretentious experiments is very thin.”

That’s a beautiful truth. Theater gives a lot, but also asks a lot: to start with that you find the entrance.

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