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Grunberg doesn't come out of his hole in The Future of Sex #HF16

Woody Allen made sure in 1972 that his fans could not watch Star Wars with dry eyes years later. The final scene of his film 'Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask' shows us the male brain as the bridge of a Star Cruiser where the crew is hard at work to bring a date to a successful conclusion. The spermatozoa in the front are a bickering gang of take-off runners, on their way to an uncertain descent towards beating egg.

In 2016, Arnon Grunberg, renowned columnist and writer of a number of bestsellers, as well as 'Seksrabbijn des Vaderlands' (Volkskrant) and problem doctor in Vrij Nederland, is producing a play with Wunderbaum actors and director Johan Simons. The title 'The Future Of Sex' is provocative, the elaboration, in a series of separate skits, evokes memories of that 1972 film. The result disappoints badly.


Back on the train to Utrecht - while the compartment was demolished by overenthusiastic Arnhem ICT workers who loudly but kindly and cheerfully chanted 'that needs a dick in it', cornering a woman who was celebrating her fortieth birthday - I tried to wonder how it could have come to this, how it could be that The Future Of Sex didn't turn out to be what I had hoped it would be.

The fun, but at the same time blood-irritating thing about Arnon Grunberg is the extreme irony he employs in all his work. Even when he says that something touches him, it is followed by an interpretation that cannot be taken in any other way than ironic. This irony rhymes very awkwardly with the pursuit of total transparency and self-sacrifice of the members of acting group Wunderbaum. The performance therefore opens with an interview by one of the actresses with the writer, in which she tries in vain to provoke Grunberg out of his shell.

We should take that little tent literally: director Johan Simons has chosen to put Grunberg on stage in a large cocoon: a spaceship, a big, divine eye, perhaps, but also something the writer can hide in perfectly.

Eleven-year-old boy

Already the interview with the author delivers little, the parade of skits that follows is especially boring, as it lacks any build-up. Anyone who follows Grunberg's work a little knows that he sees sex as a power game, as a probative remedy against loneliness, and as the domain of extreme fantasies. In that case, you won't be surprised by a sex robot that threatens to proceed to rape, and, like Grunberg, you will find it perfectly normal that paedophiles can be excellently helped by a sex robot with the look&feel of an 11-year-old boy.

Apart from these scenes, which may here and there be perceived as shocking, it contains The Future of Sex more than enough material to enthrall for two hours. Even the choir flown in for the occasion fails to really open up the performance, or the author, and thus make us in the audience really experience something.

'Will do,' is the only possible response to this philosophical exercise. So on the train home, you realise that, for now, the Future of Sex is a return to the Middle Ages. The sex rabbi of the fatherland still has a lot of work to do.

Good to know
The show can be seen in Amsterdam tonight only. 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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