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The NUT delivers splendour with Never Work Again.

On the day Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the world Facebook, its announced launch to the 'Metaversum', in order to trump his colleague chums Bezos, Musk and Branson, who had only had a sniff of the Universe, I attended the Nieuw Utrechts Toneel's performance 'Nooit meer werken' in Utrecht Leidsche Rijn. In these times of lockdown and quarantine, dreaming of future distances rather reigns supreme.

Mauerpark

There are many reasons to travel to Utrecht's Berlinplein/Budapestplantsoen to experience this performance about a robotic future in its primal setting. For a start, there is the location. In a rather unique move, the Utrecht city council has made it possible for a frayed edge to exist in the middle of the new centre of the 'metropolis' Utrecht+Leidsche Rijn.

Helped by a construction blunder that makes it impossible to build too much on the roof of the A2 tunnel already, the city now has its own Mauerpark: a no man's land with urban agriculture, art projects, pop-up vegan neighbourhood restaurants and a hub - temporarily located in construction huts - of theatre-makers and artists. Including Greg Nottrot and Floor Leene.

Folly

This pair of lovers, who have been on the road for about a decade as the Nieuw Utrechts Toneel, have created a performance in something best described as a 'folly'. Between RAUM's urban farm and Vrijplaats Leidsche Rijn (two once squatted farms that are now located in a pit next to the above-ground Stadsbaantunnel), a monumental system of stairs has sprung up as we know it from the big metropolises. Normally an esplanade between busy parts of a city, now a monumental entity between nothing and nowhere. It is just possible, makes no sense and is therefore irreplaceably beautiful.

The play Never Work Again is about the future. Robots have taken over the jobs that today's rich have outsourced to secretaries, sweatshops and sex resorts in low-wage countries. With robots, of course, all that will be much easier, and you will have less conscientiousness or labour unrest.

GPT3

Because a year and a half of lockdown and 20 false restarts have taken a toll on their relationship, Leene and Nottrot decided to outsource the entire creative process to artificial intelligence this time. The text is with GPT3 made, a tool that can deliver very convincing work based on very little input. The acting is provided by four robots and two interns, 'because they don't cost anything either'.

With the NUT, you're just never sure if what they're saying is entirely true, and that's actually always the fun of it. For instance, Floor Leene's delightful monologue at the beginning of the play is already a classic, and Greg Nottrot manages to put quite a bit of micro-aggression and toxic masculinity into his role. After all, they do participate a little bit somewhere too, right, even though they promised not to work this evening.

Cool box

The play takes you into a future where the creators have not only their jobs but also their lives taken over by robots. Plenty of cause for confusion and dystopian prospects, but it also all remains cheerfully light. Of course, that's where the cooler with enough drinks for a small orgy helps, taking each visitor to their coronoaproof spot. That way, you don't have to leave your seat too often and your meal is neatly distributed. Pretty good food, though the vegan chicken of the main course very spongy though.

Are we all wiser for it? Yes indeed, although the performance itself may not offer all the depth some would like. So we arrange that depth ourselves as an audience, thanks to the conversations that arise all over the stands during the intervals. One audience member told me, for instance, that he sometimes dreamt of a future in which everything he did in his work would be minutely monitored by digital eyes, because as a youth care worker he now spent too much time administering and accounting for his daily work.

Whether we will have a happy future thanks to artificial intelligence and robotisation? Remarkably, the audience was more positive about it than the creators themselves. So in Zuckerberg's Metaverse, we will probably meet again one day. Or ourselves.

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More info: NUT website

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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