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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Online Only Theatre | [ssba]

De Stilje, Want…


Coming all the way from the Netherlands, arts company De Stilje, Want… performed their work Hek (or Fence in Dutch) at Womad 2010. The comic piece, in its second year of performance, involves two civic workers who have a particular liking to a fence. It serves them as a place to sleep, exercise and even to use as a fence. Salient roving reporter David Reeves interviewed the work’s creators Harrie Verkerk and Gerard Olthaar.

David: So my first question, what does De Stilje, Want… mean? Does it have any significance to the two of you?

Garade: It actually doesn’t mean anything. Even in the Netherlands people are asking what does this mean.

Harrie: We were in a hurry to find a find a name for the press, publicity, stuff like that.

David: How many shows have you produced throughout your career?

Harrie: We have done a lot of different tent shows…

Gerard: A lot of walk-around acts…

Harrie: …and sometimes more than that by improvisation. One time at a festival, a long time ago… we made 40 new shows, from an idea on that [one] day.

Gerard: In the morning we read the papers, in the afternoon we produced it and in the evening we performed it. There was pressure, it was nice to do; creativity needs pressure.

David: Where did the idea come from for Hek?

Gerard: I don’t think that you can deduct where exactly an idea comes from. We retired for about five days in the French Mountains, I think about four years ago, and we wrote down some ideas. We had perhaps three main ones and this was the best. Because what we like is the fence is like furniture of the street, everybody knows what it is, and we just try to do some usual things with that.

Harrie: People ask us also, sometimes, “Where are the toilets?”, “Where is the main stage?” And stuff like that. We like that, as if [our act] is something normal.

Gerade: We wore the uniforms of the workers of the city, that makes it natural, and sometimes also having the emblem of the city. For example, in Belgium we wore the colours of the city and when people passed by it was a very entertaining situation. In saying that, however, we are not trying to do a satire, nor to ridicule those who actually are workers—if anything we are ridiculing ourselves.

David: Even though it is rather short, is your performance very exhausting?

Gerade: Our history—actually we are a group that has existed nearly 25 years—before we started off doing our performances in a tent, actually a very small tent, doing one-minute shows. That kind of performance we turned into a continuous, three-hour show. [Hek] we only perform twice in a day, for 40 minutes [at a time] and it’s more exhausting than the three hours.

Harrie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gerade: It is physically demanding, but also very hard to maintain that mental concentration since we are trying to react on the things that are around us and the situations that we encounter.

David: So it’s very creatively challenging, also?

Harrie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But maybe not for the audience.

Gerade: It looks like we are doing nothing, and we aren’t actually doing much at all. Nevertheless it is still really difficult for us.

Harrie: The last two times we had several different acts. We skip one of them now which is more physically demanding, so now it’s less exhausting. It’s all because of variation.

David: How long will you keep going with your career as performers?

Gerade: Until we fall dead.

Harrie: We will probably have a fence on our grave.

Gerade: It’s funny. When we made the decision to continue after a three-year break, we said we would do it for another five years. Then we had one stop after the five years. It then came to the point that if one of us stops, we all stop. Then another left, so the three of us who were remaining, we all looked at each other and said, we [would] continue. Then another and we said we [would] continue, then we were the only two, and now we don’t say for how long. The older you are the nicer the act.

David: Anyway, I think that is all time we have left, so thank you very much.

Harrie: Yeah, thank you.

Gerade: Thank you, thank you.


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  1. Red Fred says:

    Cool subjects, interviewer was kinda lame though.

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