JETSE BATELAAN & THEATER ARTEMIS | Netherlands | Theater
What’s war? – a child asks. You have trouble finding the right words and think the question is best kept for another day? Jetse Batelaan and Theater Artemis are also lost for words when it comes to explaining this difficult, abstract subject. Therefore, they’ve come up with an absurd slapstick show about the incomprehensibility of war that helps children understand how easy it is to end up in total chaos.
A stage. Packed full of apparently indiscriminate pieces of scrap. A mixture of disarray und chaos. Then suddenly a cooking pot flies through the room. A balloon bursts, smoke escapes from a cool box, a ball drops from a hose. When the seemingly endless chain reaction finally comes to an end, three actors dressed in old-fashioned uniforms enter the stage and start talking: «We’re sorry, we’d like to say something sensible. But a war is also too much for us. We’re only making theatre here.» This is where the impossible becomes possible: a performance about war for children and the whole family. So, brave kids step forward!
90 SECONDS WITH JETSE BATELAAN
“Oorlog”, your piece at Theaterfestival Basel, is a piece about war. And it is a piece for children from age 6. Sounds tricky.
I like challenges. The piece grew out of trying to explain war to my own kids. Even though kids don’t really get, what is happening, they know intuitively that something like war exists. Confronted with all the refugee children that came to Europe mainly from Syria during the last years, I also realized that I don’t know more about war than my kids. Knowledge of war has nothing to do with age – and all with experience. My own incapability and my own lack of knowledge became the starting point to try and talk about war together.
What way to talk about war did you choose in the end?
Two things are impossible here: First, you can’t just make fun. You have an ethical responsibility. And second, you cannot really go for the full impact of war either, because the audience is too young. For me, the only solution was to go for the surreal and the absurd. I also don’t talk about war as a whole, but about some of its aspects. If you divvy things up into smaller bits and pieces – smoke, screaming, people running around – you can deal with it much easier. Also, the actors on stage start a war with the audience – and the audience responds, so the actors become very scared by the audience and they try to end the performance – which turns out to be not easy at all.
And how do you deal with the parents? How do you convince them, that this piece is right for their children?
That’s actually quite difficult. If you have time on an afternoon and want to have a nice time with your kids, you don’t necessarily go to the theatre to see a piece called “War.” I’m counting more on the teachers. They have to deal with similar problems then we do. They have to talk about war, too, with their pupils. And they have to explain something they lack the words for.
What were the reactions from the children that saw the piece?
When the actors try to reach peace, the children quite often reacted disappointed and cry “Nooooo!” I have the feeling that they like that the actors are being scarde of them. But to be honest: kids simply like chaos, don’t they?
Regie Jetse Batelaan | Mit Willemijn Zevenhuijzen, Tjebbe Roelofs, Martin Hofstra | Kostüme Liesbet Swings | Bühnenbild Wikke van Houwelingen, Marloes van der Hoek | Spezialeffekte Dik Beets | Übersetzung Meike Kremer
Das Gastspiel findet in Kooperation mit La Bâtie. Festival de Genève statt und wird unterstützt durch Swisslos Lotteriefonds des Kantons Solothurn.