“Even when they’re bad they’re good”, radio DJ John Peel once said of The Fall, his favorite guitar band. It was more of a sigh, after playing their new single. Their attitude, flair and charisma transcended any failure, it said. His statement also applies to Casting, the new performance by theater group Amsterdam (formerly De Warme Winkel). The trio makes a mess of it, but their underlying, self-conscious self-will and style-steady irony provide sparkles of theater fire.
Casting limps on three thoughts, each of which does not come to fruition. The original idea, a performance about the ridiculous and painful process of auditing, is the start. Ward Weemhoff, Vincent Rietveld and Florian Myjer recruit four extras from the audience: pizza deliverer, letter deliverer, cameraman and a professional actress, preferably Eastern European. Ukrainian refugee Olesia Volodkova reports.
Also read: ITA threatens legal action against Amsterdam theater group
Volodkova opens a new line: the war in Ukraine. She reads a text about victimization as best she can, “The most beautiful role.” After which a letter is brought up, “Van de Advocate” from International Theater Amsterdam (ITA), which summons theater group Amsterdam to give up their name, the old name of ITA. This issue, understandable only to insiders, has been going on for the past few weeks. De Warme Winkel became theater group Amsterdam, ITA threatened legal action and this Friday the group will unveil a ‘new name’.
They use this premiere to get their fill: in an absurd way. In a dim light, the three sit on a chair and read, calmly and in silence, from their laptops what they have written, while piano music is played. In that sacred atmosphere, the lawyer is ‘in violation of the muse’ and ITA director Ivo van Hove is called a ‘vampire’. This is accompanied by ironic introspection: “I don’t know if we should say this out loud.” And: “I am against this scene.” After which Rietveld tries to knit the two forms of victimization together by declaring that they drive their inspiration through it, and that he is tired, but that there is real pain in Ukraine.
What follows is a mix of separate scenes. Partly assignments to Volodkova, in the context of a film they have yet to write, partly weird performances by the men, individually or together. The hints of abuses in auditing are the least digestible due to a lack of context. But when Weemhoff sings a song unsteadily, Rietveld plays the trumpet with only his lips (nice) and Myjer drums and sweeps across a table, a touch of theater magic is created that the group has patented. It is not enough to forge this knapsack of unfinished ideas into a whole.