Voorjaars Ontwaken at The Korzo Theatre in The Hague

As I have said before on these pages, I am a big fan of the Korzo Theatre in The Hague. What I like about it, apart from the wonderful physical space(s), is the quantity, quality and diversity of shows they put on. There is always something new and exciting taking place there and although its main interest is dance there is a lot more going on besides. This was demonstrated in last night’s Voorjaarsontwaken (Spring Awakening) which was almost like an old-time variety show with very diverse acts performing the theatre’s different spaces. Many of them are based in The Hague and are linked one way or another to the Korzo. So, it was a sort of show-case for new routines for locally based talent.

The perambulatory audience was first led into the darkened Studio for Stone Telling, a video installation/game by Englishman Luke Deane and Australian Emile Frankel. A small spot-lit table stood in the middle of the room on which stood a couple of pots of various grasses, a few electrical gizmos and a monitor, the image from which was projected onto a large overhead screen. We, the audience were the performers, encouraged to touch and move the table’s contents, each time influencing and manipulating the image and the soundtrack. As a game it wasn’t clear what the object/story was but as a video installation it worked well.

We were then taken into the main performance space, the Zaal, for the first dance piece of the evening. Island… was conceived and choreographed by Chinese artist Min Li and danced by him and Astrid Boons, and very dramatic is was too. The lights came up slowly on the darkened room to reveal the two dancers moving slowly backwards out of the gloom towards the audience to an oppressive, almost industrial, incessant soundtrack.

Next, back in the Studio, we had an excellent and unusual concert by two personable young Iranian musicians, Reza Mirjalali and Hamid Reza Behzadian, calling themselves Tarmonica, playing stringed instruments whose names I could not even hazard a guess at. I really enjoyed their set; the music was very obviously Iranian but the use of slide guitar (not an actual guitar) and later an harmonica played in a traditional blues harp way gave the music a whole new twist and the two opposing styles melding together beautifully.

After the break it was circus skills performed by Finnish juggler Merri Heikkilä in collaboration with Thomas Falk presenting [inside]. The stage was set out with groups of white juggling clubs as Mr Heikkilä lay on his back, his feet on a chair, idly plucking a mandolin, waiting for the audience to take their seats.

Well, firstly it must be said there was not much actual juggling. There was a lot of rolling around the floor twiddling a single club and at one point the performer started talking to himself in Finnish – to himself, not the audience – about what he should do next. This led to the only real juggling and very impressive it was too, but there was not nearly enough of it.

[inside] was very much a case of style over content, some of it very ill-conceived, especially when Merri put down his clubs and picked up his mandolin to give us a dreary rendition of Neil Diamond’s A Solitary Man. The theme of the piece was loneliness, and I have to say, he ain’t gonna make many friends like this. Stick to the real juggling and do more of it.

The performance was rounded off with another original dance act, Ta(m)bu, by Junadry Leocaria from Curacao who has been dancing professionally for thirteen years so is not really a newdcomer. In this solo piece she set out to explored her roots and honour her ancestors.

All-in-all a very entertaining evening. Putting together a showcase like this is an excellent idea, giving performers the chance to try out new acts and the audience the opportunity to try before they buy.   Michael Hasted   11th May 2018