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Brilliant actors in smooth comedy at Europe's biggest hangout

Europe's biggest hangout. That's the best way to describe the roof of that half-sunken car park in the heart of Rotterdam. Transformed fifteen years ago into the impression of a ship's deck, that 'Schouwburgplein' is now mostly owned by groups of skaters, vagrants, street urchins and other metropolitan troublemakers. Visitors to the Schouwburg usually rush to the theatre foyer without looking around too much. If the stiletto heels don't get stuck between the creatively constructed boards.

You have to have guts to make an 18 on that square, with no protection from the weather but also completely open to the looks and comments of the original owners.e century play. But exactly that is what the Flemish theatre beasts of Comp.Marius do. They could not have given the city a more striking opening to the Rotterdam Opera Days.

They are playing Beaumarchais. A great unknown to opera lovers, until you tell them that Beaumarchais is the playwright who invented the character Figaro. With the boulevard comedies The Barber of Seville (1775) and The Wedding of Figaro (1784), Beaumarchais provided the raw material for the world-famous operas by Rossini and Mozart. Works that we know mainly for their music and less for their lyrics, which are actually always at the bottom of the list in opera.

So good to return to the roots of those operas, and good to do so in a setting that gives an idea of how those pieces once had to survive: the Parisian boulevard theatres, in the middle of the wild nightlife of just before the French revolution. Think of the film Les Enfants du Paradis, and you suddenly see a similarity between Beaumarchais' Paris and the Rotterdam of 2015. But with more wind, more muscle cars, more cultures and less culture.

It takes guts for the players of Comp.Marius to stand there, but most of all they have the talent to do so for almost five hours without getting bored for longer than a few minutes. It is a battle of attrition to keep the audience enthralled unamplified, without microphones, without backdrop and other aids, with nothing more than voice and expression. They succeed because they are eager, believe in their craft and can play comedy in a way that shows respect for the intelligence of their audience. Whether consisting of the highly educated owners of tibune tickets, or the square dwellers watching the often hilarious act from a corner on the side.

And so you get to see a performance of two old-fashioned skilfully written and acted comedies, interrupted by a dinner break in which you are served delicious Paella and good wine. A formula that has been refined and fleshed out by Comp.Marius over the past 15 years, but which still has the same power and originality of the beginning, When I saw their first piece along a deserted Utrecht highway. They have the right feeling, the right attitude and the talent to make the most of a location's every opportunity that presents itself as gifts.

How different is it with many stage actors of today, who, having grown up with transmitter microphones and on-the-skin video, have become masters of whispering, but have no idea how to keep even the last row of a large theatre auditorium on their toes. Let alone the population of a draughty square. With wind against them.

The show can still be seen: tonight (22 May 2015) at 17:00, and Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May at 12:00.

Information

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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