FORTUNE at Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague

The English language is full of anomalies and words which have multiple or contradictory meanings. Fortune can mean luck and it can mean a lot of money; two things that are often related. Fortunate can only mean lucky. The wheel of fortune implies both. Erasmus wrote that fortune favours the audacious and that proposition was exploited to the full with this amazing performance by Club Guy & Roni produced with Slagwerk Den Haag and the Mumbai-based contemporary dance company, Navdhara.  

Since 2016, with their on-going work The Human Odyssey, Club Guy & Roni, together with artistic partners from all over the world, have explored the human condition. How do great feelings shape our lives? How is this viewed from different perspectives, cultures and living conditions?

Their latest exploration travels to India and presents a rich and complex tapestry of styles, emotions and influences that is hard to describe, but if you can imagine Bollywood meets Bacchanalian revel meets Night of the Living Dead meets the rape of the Sabine women at an Indian disco rave you might be some way there. All life was here and a lot more besides.

When the show was announced we were led, not into the auditorium, but along narrow corridors, round corners and up steps onto the stage itself where the revels had already commenced. The company of twelve dancers and musicians were whirling and gyrating to the unlikely sounds of tabla, sarod and synthesizer. We were encouraged to join in and by the time we took our seats in the auditorium we were all in the mood.

The stage was dominated by a huge tree made up of junk, the detritus of people’s lives. There were old car doors, plastic crates, table lamps, a battered armchair, suitcases, lots of old clothes and rags and goodness knows what else. The stage was also strewn with rubbish but this, and the tree, represented not only the end of one cycle but the beginning of another. I remember my first physics lesson at school when almost the first thing we were told was that matter cannot be created or destroyed. What goes round comes round, in one form or another.

There was a lot of speech directly to the audience and the proceedings proper started with one on the company telling us his story, his family tree based in Latin America. This was then compared and contrasted by the dancers with lots of vocal interventions. And so it went on, from one high-spot to another, each sequence exploring aspects of fortune. Good fortune can lead to riches, bad fortune to poverty and degradation – inevitably it is the poor who are at the end of fortune’s food chain.  As The Fool says in Shakespeare’s King Lear, “Fortune, that arrant whore, Ne’er turns the key to th’poor”. In fact, there were lots of echoes of Shakespeare in this production – I’m thinking A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Tempest – one could easily imagine Peter Quince and his fellow amateur thespians creating their play in the shadow of the tree or Ariel being released from its branches.

Fortune was an unyielding kaleidoscope created by Roni Haver, Guy Weizman, Ashly Lobo and the rest of the company which never wavered in its commitment and energy. They produced an extraordinary piece of theatre the memory of which will linger long in the mind.   Michael Hasted   23rd October 2022

Photo by Michael Hasted

Fortune is on tour until 22nd December