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Sandra Kramerová shows in 'Majka' that much fight is still needed for women's emancipation: how a good performance can still make you feel like you're missing something

Creating a character you really feel involved with as an audience is what dance maker Sandra Kramerová is rock solid at. Her solo performance Majka drags me in from the start. But precisely because she performs her choreography so strongly, I am left with the feeling of missing something afterwards. This is a wondrous experience. It doesn't end well for her character Majka. And after all the struggle, I had so wished she would be a winner.

Photo: Melanie Lemahieu

Like a plaything, this woman rolls across the globe. Defenceless against the images of how a woman is supposed to be. Society forces them on her. From all sides, they leave their mark on her. She feels the pressure to meet the demands if she wants to count and be recognised as a woman. Making herself beautiful because men like that so much. Doing women's jobs with a satisfied smile. Running the household flawlessly and taking care of children. What a shock when suddenly a rumbling avalanche of potatoes pours over her and the floor.

Who can see more purely how oppressed women live on planet earth than an alien? Kramerová takes on Czechoslovakian TV series Spadia z oblakov (= She falls from the sky) from 1981 as the starting point for her performance. As part of a New Maker trajectory, she has Majka he developed the production house Theatre De Generator, part of the Vrijplaats Leiden. This production house focuses on socially engaged productions. With the surprising angle with which Kramerová highlights women's emancipation, she totally belongs in this production house.

Sandra Kramerová portrays the protagonist Majka. After a cold and inhospitable journey through space, she arrives on Earth. In a crouched position, she lies on the ground. It seems she needs to find her muscle strength again. On her uncertain quest, she encounters a mirror. Initially, she hopes to find peace and security with her own reflection. It is beautiful, intense movement theatre. It makes me feel wry and lonely: how can such a delicate creature ever find warmth with something as cold as a mirror?

And that mirror turns out to be no solidary friend. He makes her aware of how others see her and offers himself as a tool with which Majka can make herself 'beautiful'. Thus, she imitates the 'ideal' women, whose images appear on the back wall.

Photo: Melanie Lemahieu

There is something comical about these'. The starched hairstyles remind me of the 1950s and 1960s. And the exemplary good life they are part of: does Majka really want that? Seeing these images, I too almost feel like I'm watching people from another planet.

Through her pure way of moving, Sandra Kramerová touches me deeply in all the moods her character finds herself in, from melancholic to stressed, from comfortable-in-her-skin to furious. I feel included in a personal drama that could span a lifetime. Her struggle to become something she is not herself is both comical and deeply sad. Precisely because, as an audience, you feel her closeness so well, despite the alien clothing.

There was a time when it seemed that women could step out of the shadow of men. During communism in 1980s Czechoslovakia, women do the same hard work as men. They are given the same opportunity for heroism. But the work in the factories also preys on her, mainly because it does not count what kind of individual she is. The hammer that presented itself so promisingly along with the sickle does not only represent powerhouse work. It also has a big handle, on which Majka performs a seductive dance. Thus she has arrived at the same point again: the woman remains an object of lust for the man. And around her are still the same potatoes.

I can see the ending coming well before the end. That's a pity. The potatoes look so tempting to someone in whom anger boils and who happens to have a hammer in her hands. But surely they can't help it! Thus Majka ends with a losing gesture, with helpless anger. This helplessness is reinforced when you read on the back wall how it ended with the actress who played the role of Majka in the 1981 TV series.

Precisely because I have come to care a lot about the woman who showed me her struggle for an hour, I miss a powerful statement from her. I long for a way out. A world with space for her and for everyone. Realising how important it is to fight for that, then, is surely something that Majka poked at me again in a big way.

Good to know Good to know

Seen: 21 November 2021, Theatre De Generator, Leiden
Still to be seen:
2 December, CC Amstel, Amsterdam
18 & 19 January 2022, Theater Kikker, Utrecht
3 February 2022, Plein Theater, Amsterdam
4 February 2022, Evertshuis, Bodegraven

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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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