A hectic day. As I sit down to write, I find it hard to believe what I did this morning was only this morning. We formally met the other symposium delegates and then went off to see Acts of Citizenship by Via Berlin.
This was a very problematic piece of work. I’m a bit torn here – because of the nature of the work, I am not supposed to reveal certain things, but there are issues with this performance that need to be addressed. It is a partnership between Via Berlin and sociologists from the University of Amsterdam who are conducting research with audiences as part of the show. The setting, the production values and the live music from the Berlage Saxophone Quartet were second to none. It starts with a premise that Belgium splits along language lines and the far-right take over Flanders forcing non-western heritage Flemish people to flee to the Netherlands as refugees. The show, presented from the Dutch side of the border, was very white and demonstrated an, at best, naive understanding of the issues it was trying to cover. It was in Dutch, and we were given a booklet explaining what was going on in English, but I don’t think we missed anything that would justify the portrayal of the refugees in the narrative. Dagmar Slagmolen, Via Berlin’s artistic director, came to talk to us over lunch. Despite concerns being alluded to, she didn’t seem to grasp the anxiety of some in the group. I have some ethical concerns, especially as they plan to tour the work without the research element.
This island is stunning, especially in the sunshine. We’ve been cycling as a group from venue to venue. We went to see a sound installation called Soundings by Theun Mosk, a work in progress that will eventually become an installation across 75 km of Gronegan. For me, the experience was summed up by a question that was asked by one of the group later, possibly not even directed at this piece: ‘When does a show about nature interfere too much with nature?’
There has been a lot of discussion today as a group and amongst delegates. I’m looking forward to following up on conversations about touring small-scale Dutch performing arts to the UK and attending a storytelling showcase in Amsterdam.
Our last show tonight was Kaapdiegoeiekoop, a seventeen-handed opera about the exploitation of oil performed on the beach. Again, the backdrop was jaw-dropping, and the production values were superb. The setting was reminiscent of a show I saw a few short km away on the mainland in 2016 by PeerGroup called Grutte Pier. I am still processing tonight’s show. I felt a little uncomfortable that the only black performer portrayed oil. He was fantastic, his voice incredible and his movements as fluid as the black gold he personified, but… I think the show was over long but accept that I was not listening in a language I could fully follow.