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Old Gangsters Never Die, festival hit in the making

A fearsome roar announces the emergence of action-hero Chuck to. And there's really no one like that cool can come riding up in a cart, half all-terrain vehicle and half golf cart, as Ko van de Bosch. With his too-long, too-grey hair in a ponytail and too-brown body in a black-leather motorbike suit, he immediately embodies youth in old age.

Summer hit in the making

Summer festivals are coming up and this location show with hit potential will be spinning hot at the Stone Head on the IJ in the coming weeks. Those who have always (secretly or not secretly), wanted to play along in an action film, will find what they are looking for here. Audience participation is fortunately on a (some) voluntary basis.

Cliches are sprinkled liberally and the platitudes fly around our ears on this first try-out. Like "You know that's classified information, baby ", "Remember, giving up is not an option." and "You are my only true hero." The language, in short, of epic and heroic action film sentiment....

Photographer: Ben van Duin.

Ode to old age?

But the show is more than an ode to fight films. It is also a meeting between two generations of theatre-makers and a subtle insight into the deterioration of a hero.

The story seems simple. The old guard, represented by Chuck, - superhero in his old age - takes on Rooster YoungGod, the vengeful son of dead mortal enemy Scarface YoungGod. He is assisted by Niek van der Horst as a sort of Mad-Punk-Sancho-Panza. Julia van der Vlugt plays the kidnapped, young fiancée who must be rescued from the arms of evil. Actor Nick Bos, looks like he was plucked straight out of 'Mad Max, fury road' as half-man Nox, and has the important task of portraying 'Evil' as Rooster Jr.

Racing and fighting are interspersed with a behind-the-scenes look at a film shoot. Director and star actor 'Ko' takes his 50ste action film on. Following on from previous successes such as 'Desert of destruction' , 'Wardogs in the mountains of pain' and 'Fierce and Fast in Siberia'.

He is an aging star who is between takes by still chasing the girls. " Julia, you are sinking through your ankles with talent!" he says, as he always has. The embellishment attempt leads to beautiful phrases like "I'll show you every corner of my Method Acting see" but backfires. 'Ko' is simply too old, but doesn't want to know.

Photographer: Ben van Duin

One piece, two generations

The reality outside the scenes also features two generations at work. Directing collective YoungGangsters, consists of Annechien de Vocht and Lotte Bos have been making their mark with performances on location since 2009. Often inspired by action films, but in a broad sense you could say they translate popular culture into theatre and make the audience part of it in an engaging way.

At theatre arts school in Maastricht, they discovered that staging violence (in a broad sense) releases an unprecedented energy and commitment in an audience. They want to tap into that involvement with every performance.

At a time when we glorify young, sleek and fast, they want to highlight the '50-plus man' without coming across as pedantic. He still wants everything, he still works, but not everything comes as easily to him as it used to.

Photographer: Ben van Duin


It is a clever piece of work that the directors sketch the decay without moralism or sentiment. For instance, film star 'Niek'/ PunkPanza needs reading glasses to read the name on a grave. You could make a whole laugh-out-loud thigh-slapping of a scene about that but thankfully 'Old Gangsters Never Die' doesn't need that. I was moved by that casually put down vulnerability.

Plays with two realities are as old as Pirandello's 'Six characters in search of an author', but what makes this play stand out above the rest is the gradual symbiosis of the two levels. The ailments of film star 'Ko' have consequences for his character at long last. The baton is passed on to the next generation. But with a starring role for the oldies.

Hannah Roelofs

Dramaturg, speech coach and student English teacher.View Author posts

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