The outsider’s look: Jonge Harten Theater Festival

Fresh, raw and experimental

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International theater festival Jonge Harten with an 18-year tradition has opened its gates for Groningers and international audience this Saturday, November 19th.

By Petra Ondrisakova, Masha Tsnompilantze, Migle Vaisnoraite

“When everything is human, human is an entirely different thing”

If you think that silence is boring and decorations are necessary for a theatrical play, don’t go to watch Wild Vlees perform on stage. “When everything is human, human is an entirely different thing” is a raw, experimental play with no special effects and no elements that can support the two actors. The only material they used was their bodies and plaster.img_2436

While entering the huge white room in the Minerva Academy, the first thing the audience witnessed was two completely naked people standing on the stairs and covering each other’s bodies with oil, slowly and gently without missing any inch.

People in the audience were allowed to sit on the floor, just stand or walk around. No seats, just freedom of choice to make them feel comfortable. Despite this, they all stayed at the same spot, sometimes taking a quick glance to the intimate scene, looking like fish out of water.

When the plaster was poured on the floor, the two actors approached the central part of the room, lied down and started to distribute plaster on the floor equally and thoroughly, paying attention to details. Suddenly, the audience started moving around and taking a closer look at the actors, leaving aside the uncomfortable feeling. People were overcoming their boundaries.

And this play is exactly about overcoming these boundaries. Boundaries between men and women, between cultures, between human beings and their environment. The silence was louder than any sound could be. The actors now started to cover themselves with the plaster, again thoroughly and gently. They were distancing themselves from their own identity, paying attention to their partner and their surrounding more than to themselves.

This play is about being part of nature like we human beings are meant to be. Parts of this big beautiful world, without decorations and special effects. Naked and unprotected. Naked and harmonic. Being human.

”Honderdhuizen”

Call it magic but this girl managed to squeeze 100 houses and 100 people referring to those houses as home into one metal box. You might wonder about the size of that box. Was  it anything like a bunker? more like a suitcase. You might wonder what kind of tool she used to achieve that. Was it anything resembling vacuum cleaner one might get at Top img_2517Shop? more like a camera. It was a camera. Yinka Kuitenbrouwer visited 100 houses, interviewed 100 residents and collected 100 different answers to one and only one question – what is home for you?

We were sitting in the “livingroom” of Hunderhoizen, the “livingroom” of Hunderhoizen was sitting in De Gym, one of the Jonge Harten theatre spaces in Groningen. So many stories in so few meters: stories of the play’s protagonists, stories of people in the audience. Stories of those who married their home, who “broke up” with their first ones (in better or worst circumstances) and tried to establish a new consistent relationship here in Groningen, even stories of those who were having a “short affair” with an old but still good looking hostel in Groningen. Locals, internationals, and tourists gathered to experience a different kind of livingroom, a theatrical one, a universal one where even more than 100 stories, 100 nationalities fit in, but where only one language is spoken.

”Foreign Body_Solo” (The diary of the intruder)

IMG_2468.JPG‘I will go to the theatre at least once a month’ I told myself when I was moving to Groningen. How many times I have been in one? Not even once.

However, Tuesday evening changed it. I was always one of those people who remain silent when any discussion turns to the topic of alternative modern art, pretend to be too focused with you know… Tying my shoelaces or whatever. Not that I don’t like it. I am just not sure how to understand it. But I gave it a try.

I found myself in front of Groningen’s Grand Theatre feeling like an intruder, humming Sting’s Englishman in New York (Slovakian in Groningen? Definitely less fancy). A girl in front of a theatre offered me a test to find out which play is the most suitable for me. After I picked the painting I like the most, the podcast I liked the most, and the day I can visit, she found the best one for me. It was a Dutch one, but luckily I had already picked a different one, more suitable for an international.

I blindly follow the crowd because I don’t understand, but I happen to end up on the right seat in the right performance. The lights turn off and then it starts.

It is really hard to explain or describe. The lights, the sounds, and one body. The strange background noises are disturbing to the level that I wish they woIMG_2473.JPGuld never stop. I think now I understand the meaning of saying ‘it got under my skin’. And then the person on the stage starts to move. She stops being a person and becomes just a body. The movement and the darkness creates a strange form of inner depression, which leaves me feeling strangely isolated from the rest of the audience. And it takes my breath away in some strange alternative modern way. All those noises and the synchronic rhythms she creates makes me forget that it is a real person on the stage, not only some wicked vision we all share. Everybody around is leaning forward, studying every movement of the body. I forgot my glasses at home, so I lean back to see the whole picture. And after thirty minutes it is done. All the mirage disappears. I am leaving the theatre and I still don’t understand modern art. But I feel like it doesn’t matter anymore.

 Jongen Harten theatre festival still has a number of shows to offer and it will continue until
Saturday, ending with the final party in the Grand Theatre. However, even in a city hosting thousands of international students, foreigners were underrepresented. It seems to us that art can overcome cultural and language boundaries and the festival can potentially serve as a starting point for blurring these differences.

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