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With the best actors of their generation, Oostpool makes beautiful theatre of J.D. Salinger's America

Sanne den Hartogh. Photo: Sanne Peper

Things become more fascinating when you look back on them 30 years or so later. Three decades make the life you were once in the middle of history, and that is happening to my generation (40-somethings) now with the second half of the last century. Hence the success of Jonathan Frantzen's masterpieces Freedom and The Corrections, and hence the success of a DVD series like Mad Men. Arnhem-based Toneelgroep Oostpool now adds a stage show that everyone who loves it should go and see.

It is theatre, of course, and the budget of this modestly subsidised company does not allow for overly lavish detailing in the design, but director Erik Whien has managed to make the atmosphere perfectly palpable. Then you don't need more than a few nice props. And a few good actors, of course. He has the best: Maria Kraakman and Sanne den Hartogh.

To start with the latter, Den Hartogh is one of those guys who exudes nonchalance, but meanwhile plays flawlessly. He can place a quip and then strike a deep silence with the audience. Totally averse to vanity, he also has his looks down pat. With a splash of brillcream in his hair, he instantly transforms from a fresh polder boy into one of those guys from Happy Days or even The Little House on the Prairie, which are exactly two atmospheres along which the story slides.

Maria Kraakman, at least the best actress of her generation, plays a young woman who at some point decides to stop making sense of the world. Not surprising, when you realise that her character had to survive in 1960s America. Kraakman has humour and innocence in every fibre of her body, but in the process, because she really knows everything that is happening, she is also in total control, even when her character loses it. Thus, she bridges the audience beautifully, again without even a trace of flat vanity. Peerless.

The play 'Till the Fat Lady Sings' was inspired by the work of J.D. Salinger, known for the book 'Catcher in the Rye' that a whole generation of Dutch people had on the book list for final exams. Whien and his dramatist Casper Vandeputte (given the name from the country where these theatrical bookworms seem to grow on trees) have focused the adaptation on the stuffiness. The idealism of the 'Beat Generation' that brought us racial equality and flower power also had its nasty edges. We see these abundantly in the lives of the brother and sister condemned to each other in 'Till the Fat Lady Sings': then it's no longer about dreams, but about ideal terrorism on the square.

Fascinating how Whien thus manages to give new meaning to an entire literary oeuvre. They need millions for that in America.

Seen: premiering on 29 January at Huis Oostpool in Arnhem. There until 5 February. Subsequent tour. Information: www.oostpool.nl

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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