Antonin Rioche’s OhGirl! at the Korzo in The Hague

Solitude is a strange thing. There are those who revel in it, happy with their own thoughts and company. Others dread it. They crave company and solitude equals loneliness. Does the loner have the problem because he/she is an outsider, unable or unwilling to socialize, or is the latter inadequate because they are unhappy in their own skin and lack the imagination or capability to fulfill themselves alone?  Are we the same person when alone as we are with others? Do we show the world a different face from the one we see in the mirror?

Antonin Rioche has worked extensively at the Korzo and the precursor to this piece, OhBoy! achieved great success when it toured throughout Europe five years ago and played the Korzo last year. In his new piece, OhGirl! he uses the stage as an empty canvas on which to paint a picture exploring the anxiety of a girl after the curtain falls – the spotlight goes out, the camera stops and the apartment door closes behind her. She goes on a lonely journey but is short of fuel after the adrenalin runs dry. Her own devices are all she is left with.

The girl in question is America dancer Arika Yamada. She plays the protagonist in Rioche’s piece with grace and sensitivity and is totally convincing, portraying someone negotiating the trials and tribulations of daily life as well as the fear and anxiety of someone who feels they sometimes carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Her moods swing from highs to lows and she says, in the voice over, “when I am happy I think it will be for ever”. But it is no to be.

This is a tour de force performance by Ms Yamada, both physically and emotionally. Aided by only an old metal frame chair and a pair of high-heeled shoes shoe she takes the audience on her lonely journey. However it is not all doom and gloom, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The finale is a celebration, a declaration, a fist in the air to the strains of Nina Simone’s life affirming Ain’t Got No, I Got Life, a song which could have inspired the whole piece.

Visually OhGirl! was very satisfying with Loes Schakenbos taking much of the credit with her lighting. The décor consisted of dozens of light bulbs hanging two meters above the stage and a row of spotlights on the ground, either side of the performance area. There was one sequence that worked superbly when, to a solo piano passage, a different bulb flashed on and off, echoing each note. Apart from the Nina Simone song, the sound was made up of a sound-scape by Lisa Harres and monologues giving us an insight to the performer’s thoughts and feelings.  Michael Hasted    21st October 2022

OhGirl! will be on tour until16th December.