Sometimes it is impossible not to go and see something. To be part of something. Toneelgroep Amsterdam and also their newest piece, Danton’s Dood [Danton’s Death], is no exception. It is exceptional, provocative and captivating. How to explain this, without giving anything away? (As it only opened this weekend, I do implore everyone to go and see it for herself…) Some things to consider…Halina Reijn, Hans Kesting Foto:© Jan Versweyveld
First of all, language. Perhaps it’s me, but language – the words and the manner they are conveyed – are for me one of the most important parts of what makes a play. Death, revolution, love – strong feelings that require strong language. Poetry and silence, slow thoughtful murmuring and bright exclamations: this play could even be great with one’s eyes closed.
Second of all, Halina van Reijn. A great actress, playing four characters in this play, one male, three female, each role showing another face of femininity. The seductress, the rational one, the loyal one, the lover. It is truly wonderful to see how involved she is, how her faces lights up and her eyes sparkle whenever she loses herself and finds herself confronted with the woman she is, also.
Thirdly, the scenography. Everything breathes French revolution. From the hundreds of candles, to the way Halina lifts her skirts when she walks. (Only too bad about the velcro [klitteband] on Hans Kestings’ shoe…) But mostly I was impressed by the way the decor was designed as an intimate place, easily embraced by the audience, while the stage was at the same time watched by the people of France, nothing would go unnoticed. Everyone had to give up their air of innocence, sometimes even literally their clothes, in order to save their selves, their souls, their ideals.
Finally, I want to mention that I was very pleasantly surprised to recognise the words of Camus – a long monologue by Halina. Of course it is an excellent choice – and I don’t just say that because I am a fan of Camus – as Camus knew how a true revolution is not about saying ‘no’ to something. Revolutionary Man, the true essence of man who chooses life, is to say ‘yes’ to something that is inalienable to herself. I wish Robespierre and Danton had listened to that speech, that they would have been able to read Camus during the time of the French revolution, for things might have been different then, better. Quoting Camus extensively as Toneelgroep Amsterdam has done, in a context of revolution in a time in which revolutions are self-proclaimed and designated too easily, is very brave. To show it is not the overthrowing of the elite, but the raising of consciousness of the one who revolts to knowing what she wants to say ‘yes’ too that makes a revolution.