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Jeroen Spitzenberger lets New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra shine

Jeroen Spitzenberger lets New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra shine So typically Rotterdam is this performance, simply good, because of the space the lauded actor grants to a rather unknown 11-member male orchestra.

For weeks, we happily watch Spitzenberger as Tim in the excellent TV series Oogappels, just as at the same NPO we intensely enjoyed Het Jaar van Fortuyn in which he (also) made one of the best Dutch series with Ramsey Nasr.

Since Spitzenberger left the National Theatre in 2015, he can throw himself fully into varied productions. It is nice to watch and listen to Spitzenberger, with that somewhat casual, ordinary facial expression, beautiful smile and wonderful voice.

Child died, wife passed away

So too in Memento Mori, which Spitzenberger makes out of his fascination with death: heart attacks fields his grandfather at 52, his mother as early as 55. Somewhere in the publicity it passed that death is a big taboo, but of course it is not; in art, death as a theme is as old as life, and today countless magazines, documentaries, TV series (The Coffin) and blogs show the approaching of persons or just experienced end of life of loved ones in often all its rawness.

On stage, Jeroen is processing the death by cardiac arrest of his wife Elisabeth, who was still struggling day and night with the death of their still-young child Elsje; over whom the father has passed. He does, however, wonder in despair whether he could have prevented the death of his beloved Elisabeth. He lets her last minutes pass over and over again with a stopwatch at hand, and consults a doctor.

He then scrutinises his own mortality, lies down in the coffin, and is led out by the musicians who, quite humorously, mumble some cliché last words. Spitzenberger is, to put it flatly, already practising his own passing, alternately melancholic and light-hearted.

Fantastic orchestra

This is Jeroen Spitzenberger's first own play. As a fellow-Rotterdammer, let me not beat about the bush: there is not much to this text, it is lowbrow or ordinary as Rotterdammers are. The flow of words is not sparkling or surprising.

Of course, that would be a problem and reason for a not-so-good performance. But the opposite is the case: the text does not matter that much because Spitzenberger forms a perfect ensemble with the New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra, as the premiere at De Doelen yesterday showed.

This 11-member male ensemble plays the stars from the sky. And Spitzenberger gives them plenty of room to do so, simply pulling back to give horns and guitarist time one by one for their often amazing solos. The arrangement is as brilliant as it is fitting. This surprising, well-found collaboration tastes like more.

Thus Jeroen Spitzenberger's Memento Mori swings the pan, as an unforgettably beautiful ode to life. We can still participate...

Good to know Good to know

*) Memento Mori from Theatre agency The Men can still be seen until 11 December in 11 theatres across the country. The teaser is online.

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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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