All That is Wrong
Strong words, softly spoken from provocative Belgian theatre company
This article is from 2012.
There’s power in simplicity this year, for the Belgian theatre company, Ontroerend Goed. Often tagged as ‘provocative’ or ‘controversial’ because of their knowing messing around with conventions – see their previous, excellent Fringe offerings, The Smile Off Your Face, 2007, where audience members got blindfolded and tied to a chair; Internal, 2009, involving group therapy and speed-dating role play, or last year’s Audience, featuring deliberately uncomfortable live bullying – this year’s show is a much more minimal, softly spoken affair.
Koba Ryckewaert is an 18-year-old strawberry blonde beanpole, and the co-writer and lead actress. Communicating through a giant blackboard on the floor, she writes chalk words to introduce herself. It’s the volume-down, monochrome flipside to 2010’s frenzied Teenage Riot (which she also performed in) – an MTV-blur of hand-held live camera and adrenal dialogue, and follow-up All That Is Wrong still hits several nerves, just in a more subtle way.
A track from Canadian minimal electronic composer Tim Hecker provides the perfect gentle swell in the background, as Ryckewaert’s tidy chalk confessions slowly sprawl into something more confused and longing. On hands and knees, she slides between scribbles about her ‘awesome sister’, to more probing mentions of her ‘dependency’ on her mum, or worries about the global economy and plastic surgery. Her performance is compellingly calm, with all the more impact because of its refusal to melt-down into a teen-melodrama stereotype.
Devriendt once said Ontroerend Goed’s goal was to ‘show how your view of the world is mostly a projection of your inner world’, made obvious here as the crowds’ eyes are drawn to different parts of the chalkboard as it fills up. Restrained in every element of the production, director Alexander Devriendt draws on the multi-media set-ups of before, only simpler – beaming Ryckewaert ‘s OHP writing onto the Traverse Two’s walls, or bleeding in news soundbites via an Apple Mac, but the messages are whispered, not shouted; held up (literally) before the crowd, rather than poked into their faces.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 12 Aug, times vary, £17–£19 (£12–14).