Student - May 26, 2011

Primitive drama on estate grounds

A siren wails. Sorrow mounts among the isolated and huddled up villagers. Then, spurred on by a soft melody, they straighten their backs and start to dance. Like sleepwalkers, they whirl about in waltz fashion, on the grass and around the trees. The evening sky behind the trees and the dish-shaped building is still bright.

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The venue where this takes place is the Larenstein Estate in Velp. There, Toneelgroep Arnhem, an amateur theatre group, performs 'The glory of Asten'.
This play is written by Hans van den Boom and adapted for this occasion by director Erik Bok. It is a bizarre and primitive tale. Not something you would watch with your children. Or with someone else whom you would feel uncomfortable when the phrase 'sexual intercourse' is uttered. Think of the harsh Danish film 'The Celebration' (original title 'Festen'), the gruesome Dogville of Lars von Trier and the absurdist films of Alex van Warmerdam, such as Abel.
Asten is a small village where everyone knows everyone else. There is the butcher who sheds tears every day at his chopping block. There is the pastor who brings home a sorbet every day for his wife, towards whom he feels a strong physical repulsion. And the young Saskia, not just a victim of epileptic fits, but also of gossip and backbiting.
One day, the villagers see a 'black angel' walking along the main street. Irreversible events then start to happen. No secrets are safe anymore. Underneath the calm surface lurk suffering, madness and rage. Mercilessly, the tale exposes the isolation of the individual in society. At the same time, a recurring litany of the sentences 'Live with me, talk to me, eat with me, sleep with me' brings out a deep felt need for solidarity. The alienated mood and ridiculous situations then washes off the strange taste again. Accompanied by sharp guitar acoustics, the whole is infused with a dreamy intensity.
A few locations in the estate serve as stage props, such as the field west of the bicycle shed and the nearby open area among the trees. The public can spread themselves across these locations. While not everyone gets to see the same performances, everyone gets acquainted with the same characters and story, thanks to the sound technique and the actors moving about.
One of the actors is Daan van der Linde, a lecturer in rural development at Van Hall Larenstein, and a seasoned drama actor in his free time.

Performances on Thursday 26, Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May at 20:30 hours in the Larenstein Estate in Velp. See www.toneelgroeparnhem.nl

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