FANTASTIC WOMEN at the Korzo in The Hague

‘Women are everywhere these days,’ sighed the man sitting at the next café table. How nice of him to notice, I thought, somewhat bemused for a split second. Leaving the ‘MeToo’ outbreak aside, what he actually meant is that women have become more visible, both in the professional as well as the artistic fields.

Maybe as an encouragement for women to acquire the confidence in themselves as people and not purely in the roles in which they are cast  by society, the much experienced soprano Bauwien van der Meer and spirited pianist Caecilia Boschman have created this polished and well-presented show of songs written by women of different countries and in languages from around the world.

On a stage peopled by the heads of famous (male) composers stuck on long metal poles and standing like a forest, the songs in contemporary style were sung by Bauwien van der Meer as she weaved her way in and out while the heads looked on impassively. Rather than simply accompanying the singer, Caecilia Boschman played an active and often humorous part in the proceedings. The inspiration for the songs came from a great many sources  – Sylvia Plath, Samuel Pepys and even Donald Trump. Because of the mixture of languages in the songs it was difficult to understand the lyrics but it was made up for by Bauwien van der Meer’s strong voice and emotional rendition. I particulary loved the song by Calliope Tsoupaki and I enjoyed Caecilia Boschman wonderful playing of Travel song.

Among the spoken texts came Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman and a text about ‘choice’. Their message, telling how women should become strong left me unconvinced – on the one hand we are told to reject the pressure of how we should look, on the other hand we are told how we should be – the latter is much harder to achieve for most. Both messages, to my mind anyway, put more pressure on those who, for social, educational or economic reasons, may feel powerless  –  few among us can be exceptional, phenomenal even. I am all for strong role models for girls and women but not for their blanket adoration. The price they pay and the sacrifices they make for their ‘freedom’ often remain hidden.

At the end of the show the slowly nodding heads of the composers-on-a-stick were dismantled to make room for the women –  Angelou, Wendy Cope, Marguerite Yourcenar and others, but Bauwien van der Meer admitted, that to simply depose men is not the solution to the liberation of women.

This was a very well presented and choreographed show, both musically and dramatically. Try and catch this duo if you can.      Astrid Burchardt      16th March 2019