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Farewell performance 'I'm not here for a while' by Moniek Merkx must be seen

How beautiful art for children can be when a real artist is involved. When themes like death, falling in love, loneliness and exclusion are made palpable in such a beautiful way that you step outside with a deeper feeling about life?

With theatre-maker Moniek Merkx, you can. A year ago, she stepped down as artistic director of the Rotterdam company Maas Theatre and Dance. Only now is her farewell performance on show, and you should go and see it, even if you don't have children.

The musical theatre piece is called 'I'm not here for a while' and has become a performance that beautifully deals with a time of lockdown and isolation.

Heroes

Think of the images on display as the work of Hieronymus Bosch, Magritte or Salvador Dali, but on a revolving stage a few metres wide. Above that stage two monitors on which we see children speaking texts from older people, around that stage a kind of show curtain where we can think an outside world or a sky.

It begins with lonely elderly people transitioning to a better reality and ends with young people who have yet to learn what that is like: being close to others. All this is accompanied by a soundtrack that also includes a wonderful cover of Bowie's 'Heroes' to enjoy. Ultimately, it ends with a light-hearted picture from which you leave the theatre with your head in the clouds.

Last of a generation

Moniek Merkx is one of the last representatives of the generation of theatre makers who made Dutch youth theatre into something that is admired worldwide. The most important characteristic of that generation is that they recognised for the first time that children have much more imagination and resilience than parents and elders often think. Their theatre did not kneel, but often climbed to an even higher plane than theatre made exclusively for adults: more abstract, wilder, more daring and actually always more beautiful and fun.

Earlier this year, contemporary Josee Hussaarts took a forced leave as artistic director of Nijmegen-based youth theatre Kwatta, and Hussaarts, like Merkx, also puts his own artistry at the centre. These are two examples of makers who have trained a new generation in the courage to push boundaries for an audience that still experiences the world as borderless.

That freedom, which the children experience in the theatre developed by people like Merkx, you as a person usually lose in your further life, because chefs, neighbours, a god or a social media reputation get in the way. If you want to experience one more time what imagination is possible, go to this performance by Maas Theatre and Dance.

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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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