In the dunes of Oerol, humans and aliens enter into a relationship

If you cycle across the dike along the Wadden Sea and birds sail through the sky above you, melodies chirp, the overwhelming nature of Terschelling itself is like theater. This island decor gives the performances at Oerol an extra dimension.

During the 41st edition of this theater festival, the entire Vadeøen will finally be transformed into a large festival site again. Between 10 and 19 June, there will be performances in all sorts of places in the breathtaking landscapes that the island has to offer. All the natural beauty can be a masterful backdrop, but as a festival guest it can sometimes be your worst enemy. If you sit on a wooden stand for an hour and a half in the blazing sun e.g. Or when gray clouds gather over the rebuilt motocross track, or countless mosquitoes frolic through the crowd in the evening. On the island, it is hard work and shelter for a shower, but after two online editions, the live program offers the experience that the Oerol guest has been looking forward to for a long time.

Read also about Oerol 2021: The theatre’s directness can also be felt online

In the evening in the woods near West-Terschelling, the largest village on the island, you can play mercy by Teater Rast. Fans of BBC hit series To kill Eve can indulge himself here, for Oerol now has his own serial killer who is as charismatic as he is insane: Grace, played by Charlie Chan Dagelet. She escaped the horrors of a plantation where she was forced to work, but her lover (an intriguing role by Michiel Blankwaardt) remained. Grace goes over corpses to find him again.

Between the Pine Trees, director and author Ada Ozdogan creates a bizarre Western world. Two bounty hunters are drawn into Grace’s plans: a scared wannabe writer (Sidar Toksöz) and a hyperprofessional bounty hunter (Denzel Goldmine). Their boss (a wonderfully playful Mattias Van de Vijver) also gets involved. The creators were inspired by the film Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino and you can see it. The dialogues are fast and comical, fake blood splattering around.

Trouble with boundaries

In the wooded area around the West, two performances that at first glance seem completely different: Acts on citizenship and The promised land† Yet there is a parallel: in both performances, cohabitation is accompanied by hassle about boundaries, and someone pulls a weapon, as a desperate act to solve the problem.

Bee Acts on citizenship From Via Berlin, Flanders has separated from Wallonia in a dystopian scenario of Rachida Lamrabet. There is no longer room for ‘non-ethnic Flemings’, which means that an – increasing – group of asylum seekers is gathering at the Dutch border. Lamrabet focuses on three border guards who are to prevent the refugees from entering the country. They have very different perspectives: one follows the policy of the government blindly; another believes that the border should be opened immediately. In the rolling dune landscape, opposite the guards, more and more figures appear. There is a white area instead of their faces: they are anonymous souls hoping for help. The nervous situation at the border is amplified by the winds from the Berlage Saxophone Quartet, which increase the excitement with humorous compositions.

Some scenes are quite schematic because many perspectives on the refugee issue are discussed, as well as peripheral phenomena associated with a crisis: political gain, influencers, or the interference of celebrities. This fits into the context of the performance: the play has been developed in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and is part of scientific research to which the audience is exposed. You will follow a special route and fill out questionnaires – the exact circumstances of the research may not be revealed during the festival so as not to affect future visitors.

Refugees

Also in The promised land of YoungGangsters meet two population groups. In this piece, Earthlings end up as refugees on another planet. Although they do not see it that way: they are ‘settlers’ who go directly into negotiations with the locals. These tree-like creatures suck ‘nectar’ from the ground with their tentacles and speak a beautiful language, from the pen of the author Jibbe Willems. At first people are still tolerated, but it stops when they turn out to have a whole plan to get all the nectar from the bottom (the ‘juice cradle’). Our colonial past and the human tendency to acquire raw materials can be heard in our dealings with the ‘new’ planet. The story is presented feverishly by the players, who have the laughter on hand as they run through the soft sand, stretch a bond with the audience or depict a love affair between man and alien.

In the garden of café De Groene Weide there is an equally eccentric performance: No one is called Roseheart of Veenfabriek. If there was a festival award for the most hysterical design, this performance would definitely win it. Between a walker wrapped in gold paper, props from a fast food restaurant and fluorescent outfits, the story revolves around a girl, Rozenhart, written by Koos Terpstra. Roseheart has just been given away to an old rich man. When the old man dies, she inherits everything – to the great dismay of those around him. A lawsuit has been filed, and suitors, meanwhile, are trying to steal her heart.

There are plenty of catchy musical acts and extravagant characters, such as a meaty ‘great-grandmother’ (Phi Nguyen), a dominant hunter (Sharlee Daantje) or principled farmer (Jacobien Elffers). Terpstra seems to want to say something about justice and fairness, but that message gets a little snowed down in the lavish instruction of Joeri Vos.

Newcomers

In contrast to the spectacular festival violence in the performances of, for example, YoungGangsters and Veenfabriek, there are more modest pieces, such as two productions of Orkater. Under the wings of the talent development track Newcomers, soloist Gery Mendes created the performance Borboletas† Mendes plays a son whose father came to Holland from Cape Verde. In the monologue, directed by Benji Reid, Mendes speaks spoken scenes complementing with sung moments, accompanying himself on guitar or rhythmically scraping metal with a knife. The centerpiece is a ruin: the house in the father’s homeland, which should have been a palace that would be passed on from generation to generation. In Zico Lope’s decor, some beams rest on poles that pierce two sofas. This furniture seems to sink into the ground – time has caught up with dad’s dreams.

Like Mendes, the newcomer collective Uma dives into the European colonial past with the performance Oroonoko about the life story of a Ghanaian prince as described in a short story from the seventeenth century. The prince was enslaved and put to work on a plantation, but became friends with the plantation owner, as described by the British author Aphra Behn. Players Carmen van Mulier, Jamie Grant and Cripta Scheepers deliver this tale in beautiful, measured scenes. Stylized moments are sometimes stopped, and these images could be illustrations from the short story. Between white sets – a staircase and a series of arches – in a valley in Hoornse Bos, they play the main character, his lover or the plantation owner. The actresses have no fixed characters, they always take over the roles from each other. Their game is powerful and flawless.

Percussionist Jimmi Jo Hueting provides a varied soundtrack, with sounds from the seventeenth century echoing between electronic beats. Oroonoko is a delight to the eye and convinces with its commentary on the original story, so much so that one completely forgets the countless stinging mosquitoes.

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