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This is how to make heartbreakingly beautiful theatre about bureaucracy in healthcare

Youth theatre is often just a little quicker to keep up with the latest developments in cultural policy land. Since a few years, for instance, you have to tick a few boxes in your grant application. Whether you subscribe to codes such as Governance, Fair Practice and Diversity & Inclusion. We have seen how these are eagerly adhered to, perhaps a little too much for some. In 500 years, historians will use such data to conclude that things were apparently lousy in the 21st century.

And right they will be, of course. We are going to publish a lot about that, in the coming years (if we continue to get enough donations or add members). Governance remains topical because poverty and big business are also an extension of each other in the arts, Fair Practice because we have competition attached to art, and diversity and inclusion because we often use art to distinguish ourselves from others.

Purple crocodile

Currently, some youth companies are focusing on the queer target group (NTJong, Maas). Another Diversity & Inclusion theme is now in good hands with Groningen youth theatre company Het Houten Huis. That club is touring the country with the performance 'If it goes differently'. I saw it yesterday in Leiden and was moved. It is a poetic performance with lots of beautiful, dreamy music, floating images and subdued humour about the big purple crocodile we have saddled ourselves with in recent years: the care sector.

It starts with a beautiful Andreas Denk (dancer, designer and co-producer) who, as the father of a son with Down, comes to a scary counter to ask something about the PGB and is given a form. Funnily enough, an 'uh-oh' sounds from the audience even then: the audience senses well that things go wrong from here.

Indeed, the pile of forms grows into a metre-high column and, as a result, the father loses sight of his son. With him, we watch the world between the crushing mills of office where birth and death coexist and intertwine, and a man without arms and legs is (really) looking for his own wheels.

Three captains

Neither the theme "bureaucracy in healthcare" nor the assignment "put people with physical challenges in a dance performance" lend themselves easily to a compelling and moving dance piece. That it succeeded here, with three captains on one ship (Denk and Club Guy&Roni signed on for the production alongside Het Houten Huis), may be called a small miracle.

That wonder lies in the engaging presence of Andreas Denk and the actor playing his son, in Guy&Roni's frenzied choreography, which portrays the dying process of a Deathly Ill Girl so powerfully and lovingly that you almost make peace with it, and in Elien van den Hoek's direction, which brings it all together and provides it with more poetry than explanation. In this way, the performance floats nicely past the tick boxes that should make subsidisers happy.

So this is how it can be done.

Seen: If It Runs Otherwise by The Wooden House, Club Guy&Roni and Plan-D. More information:


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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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