A competition for the title of the best amateur play of the city, that’s what The Play of Nijmegen is all about. Fun fact: I am participating! WOW-EFFECT Theater is one of the eight groups that are participating. I wrote the script and I am playing a part as well. We will be playing tonight, on the second night of the preselections. The first night was yesterday, which meant we had the privilege of checking out some of our opponents.
This night was not like any other theater performance. First of all, we didn’t get to see a whole play, but instead we saw four small pieces of the four plays. Each group showed us about ten minutes of their play.
Second of all, there was a jury present. This jury will be choosing the three groups that are going to the finals. Each member of the jury will coach one of the selected groups from October until November. So in a way, it will be a battle of the jury as well! The jury members gave feedback after each performance. They didn’t say who was selected yet though. They will announce that tomorrow.
Play no. 1 by Michael Kruidenier & Karin Verwoert
The first play was directed by Michael Kruidenier and played by Karin Verwoert. The stage looked beautiful, with a dinner table full of plates, food and wine. Although there was only one actor on stage, it was a play for three characters. This meant Karin played all three characters. It a brave but difficult way of making theater. Changing characters in a split second isn’t easy. In my opinion, this was exactly the thing that still had room for improvement. I saw too much of the same person every time the actress switched characters. Her mimic, voice and movements mostly stayed the same. Only the third character had some really different traits showing through.
Besides that, I was both intrigued and distracted during the performance. I was intrigued by the setting and the mystery of the three people. I wanted to know what their story was and how everything connected. That was strengthened by the fact that we could only see one character at once. Somehow I could not keep my full attention, however. It’s not fair to blame it on the play though. I think at least partly this was because I was a little bit nervous myself for our own performance tomorrow. I was not only watching the play, but also taking in the surroundings, checking out the stage and daydreaming about us being there tomorrow. And once your thoughts start to wander, you will be lost in this particular play. It really asks of all of your concentration, because it’s a lot of text and because of the switch of characters. I do believe though, that my attention had been better if Karin had felt her characters more and showed us more of their different personalities.
The jury also mentioned the change of characters as a point of improvement. So if she’s chosen to show the whole piece in the finals, I’m sure they will coach her on that.
Play no. 2 by Langer Houdbaar
The play of this group was entirely different from the first one. The scene they showed us was a poetry battle, acted as if it were a boxing match. It reminded me of a game we sometimes play in theater sports. Although the idea is cute, I didn’t like the way they portrayed it. It was a type of humor you either love or hate. The kind of comedy where everything is overly exaggerated, the characters are slapstick/cartoon type characters, the actors make faces the entire time and do their best to look as stupid as possible and depth is non-existent. It’s designed solely to make people laugh because of the silliness they see before them. I know some people like this type of comedy, but I don’t. I need at least some depth, I need to see realistic personalities, I need to be able to stand in the characters’ feet. I cannot enjoy watching people making a fool out of themselves. I even cringed when they started to deliberately sing out of tune.
Personal preferences aside, I also wonder how they would create a 45-minute play within their concept. I could not see that happen, perhaps because I didn’t see a storyline or a character I could believe. I could see this working out as comedy sketches, preferably performed for a drunk audience or for people who are not particularly theater lovers, but who are looking for an easy laugh. I feel kind of snobbish being so negative, but it’s only my personal preference. I can fully understand there are people out there who love this kind of humor and who’d be glad to see this group perform. Just not me…
Play no. 3 by Ilse Peeman
This young woman had written her own play for the very first time. I think it’s brave to enter a competition like that! The play started off in total darkness, after which a film projector shed a small light on stage. This was very interesting to see and because of that, it captured my full attention immediately. When Ilse walked on stage, she on folded a white paper roll on the floor, illuminated only by this small light of the projector. It gave a mysterious feel to the scene, not only because of the light, but also because of the repetitive zooming sound the projector made.
After unrolling the paper, stage lights were slowly turned on and we got to see her face. She was looking very fragile, wearing a simple white dress and staring at us for a while. She must have been on stage for a couple of minutes already, she had not said one word and the silence in the audience was breathtaking. Literally. I did not dare to breathe, in fear of me breaking the silence.
She showed us two characters of the play. First a woman, contemplating about life and it’s meaning, after that a child, scared of jumping in the swimming pool. Whether these character where the same person or two different people wasn’t made clear. I’d love to find that out by visiting her entire play. Ilse really impressed me. I would not be surprised if she made it to the finals.
Play no. 4 by Selin Kanca & Elif Uzal
These were the youngest participants of the evening. They didn’t mention their age, but i think the girls must have been 15 or 16 years old. That alone was really admirable, trying your chances at a theater competition at that age. What was even more impressive, was that the girls wrote their own piece!
And they did well! The setting of the play was a mental hospital, in which one of the girls was visiting the other. They were sisters, but they did not get along well. We saw a lot of their pain and the baggage they had because of the past. Their scene was very dynamic, calm one second and explosive the next. The two characters had a constant level of tension, which made the scene very interesting to watch. There was also a lot of mystery going on, because we never got to know what exactly happened in the past and why this one girl had ended up in the hospital. It was the perfect cliff hanger. The only point of improvement would be their speech. Their volume was a bit too low and their pronunciation could have been clearer. That is something they could totally work on with a coach though.
I would be very pleased if they would make it to the finals, because I’d love to see the whole play.
It was a really fun way to explore different plays by seeing a small part of each one. I had thought it might be a bit weird to see just a few scenes, but it really wasn’t. It was like seeing the pilots of four different series, or the teasers of four movies. It’s going to be difficult for us tonight, because I’d love to see at least two of these acts in the finals! But obviously, I really want to see us making it to the finals as well!
If you’d like to support us tonight, you can! We will be performing in De Verspiegeling in Nijmegen. Tickets are €10,- and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. If you cannot come, because you already have plans or because you live at the other side of the planet, don’t worry. I will keep you updated! In my next post, I will not only review the other groups, but I will also tell you how it felt going on stage ourselves and of course which groups made it to the finals!
Note: I know this night consisted of four small performances, but since they were so short each and since they weren’t complete plays, I decided to let the whole night count as one performance towards my goal.