What do you want the audience to experience?
“I want to talk to people about something. Theater is an invitation to a conversation. Not a literal conversation, but all kinds of things happen between the people who are doing things on stage and the people who are sitting and listening. That’s what I want to generate, the feeling that you’ve talked to each other about something when you’ve seen a performance. And I also want people to see that there is not just one possible solution to an issue. My own foundation M.A.M. stands for that: Multiple Answers Possible. That’s what I want to show, that there are multiple ways to deal with something. A broader perspective: there are other realities besides your own. Theater, as far as I’m concerned, is not so much a mirror, but a window through which you can look to see what other realities there are.”
About Niemand wacht op je (No one is waiting for you )
About the meaning of the aftertalk
“Normally I would say that art should speak for itself. So no aftertalks. But with this performance, the aftertalk serves the meeting. We don’t talk about the creative process, but we facilitate an open conversation between the audience about today’s politics. And that brings out a lot of emotions. One reaction that really hit me was from the PvdA party chairman in Roosendaal. He said, ‘If I truly admit that something is not working, they will kill me.’ So that’s what we do to politicians with public opinion. As a result, politicians have to act as if they know everything for sure and never doubt. That alderman drew comfort from a sentence in the performance: what if we as humanity were one body, where would we move? This made him realize that the hand that is hitting him – that is, that public opinion that is finishing him off – is in fact his own hand.’
“A search for the human condition is always my driving force in writing: Judas must have had a good reason for his deed, an understandable human reason. At a certain point I thought: this is how it happened. That is the beauty of writing, that you can get very close to the core, to someone’s pain. Not at his inability, but at his hurt. I don’t believe that man is incapacitated, but hurt.”
“Words within a play are mere islands, they seem like good refuges to stay, but the real challenge is how to move from one island to the other without drowning. That space between those words is where the value of the play will show itself. The space that’s available to travel. For directors, actors, designers, and eventually the audience.”
From correspondence with Norwegian writer Tale Næss, published in Ferske Norske
From where does your need to write come?
“Necessity is everything you cannot not do. You almost can’t explain it, it just is. That’s writing for me, it’s always been that way. Even once when I decided to stop, I had to continue.”
“Actual influence requires momentum. The right time and place have always played a role in changes. Without momentum, your ideals evaporate or you become a frustrated troublemaker. But if you don’t have unshakable ideals, it’s harder to succeed, because ideals give you the courage to keep going. To be patient, to wait for the momentum. I don’t think there are many fixed values though. Many values are well-packaged norms that you should always continue to examine closely.”
About Vals (False)
Do we need the lie to survive?
“I don’t think we necessarily need the lie, but I do believe we use it to survive. Lying is always a result of feeling insecure. In that sense, we have the lie to protect ourselves. The big question with any lie is: does it help you move forward or backward? Sometimes we have to lie for literal survival, but I think more often than not we lie to avoid seeing reality; that what is really going on. And then the lie has a narrowing effect. We literally see less because of it. It gives us a false perspective. The only way to rid ourselves of such lies is to look again at what is really there. Ge (the cell biologist) calls this looking the basis of learning. So in that perspective, the lie does not serve us. But the fact that we are all lying is beyond doubt.”
About the difference between writing for adults, adolescents and children
“I believe writing for youngsters is the same as writing for adults. I talk to them like I talk to adults. The difference in theater for youngsters is not in the writing but in the directing and staging. However, there is a big difference between writing for adults/youth and for children. It is not so much what you write about (children live in a world where they are confronted with all kinds of things) but in how you write about it. For me, it’s important to give an optimistic perspective, especially when writing about heavy topics like death, violence, crisis and war, to show an opening when it’s dark and to think playfully in your solutions. Children are much less complicated and very original when it comes to finding solutions to problems. That’s what I like about them. Another thing I like about a children’s audience is that they are so honest. They don’t pretend to like it when they don’t like it. And kids challenge me to think bigger and less realistically. Anything is possible from a child’s point of view. Writing for children has therefore influenced me in a very positive way. It has freed me from theater conventions and opened up a field of possibilities. I would recommend any playwright who hasn’t already done it to write a play for children.”
“I do not believe we will find a lasting solution to centuries of abuses at the level of perpetrator-victim thinking. We all face an enormous challenge to redefine the concept of responsibility. Feelings of guilt, shame and penance do not provide a strong foundation for this.”
About GIF (POISON)
“Poison is about what happens to you when all the ground under your feet is swept away. How do you deal with that, when by fate all hold suddenly disappears? I soon found out that there is no one way to deal with such a tragedy. Apart from all the opinions and well-meaning advice people around you want to give you at such a moment. Coping with such grief is essentially an individual story. And that very difference in approach obviously creates dramatic tension.”
“Meinrad and Ebba’s suffering has mainly to do with the demands placed on them by the system. And every human being recognises that. We are all – at every level – caught in the demands of a system and we suffer because of it. Many people break down because they are stuck in a mould that defines what is possible and what is impossible, what we should be and what we don’t need to be. It depletes us. It takes a lot of courage to break free, to let go. We tend to function within the system for as long as possible to get back on top. More often than not, that ends in a dead end. I fear that unless we fundamentally rethink our systems, we will all be driven like lemmings into the sea. For me, Momentum is also a call to revise our power structures because they are making us sick.”
About the future of art
Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the social future of the arts?
“I can get very agitated about the flattening and commodification of the arts sector, but at the same time I know that there is no winning morality.
It is distressing, though, that art is in danger of losing itself in a war of legitimisation, when it is really just a penny issue and not a question of existence. There is simply no society without art and so there will never be a future without art.
I find it a dangerous tendency that we try to defend our right to exist by showing that art makes money for society, because in doing so we ourselves remain stuck in the dictatorship of market forces and supply and demand, whereas if there’s one thing the current crisis shows, it’s that this dictatorship has failed. I believe art can be a potential guide in times of crisis because it makes invisible processes visible and audible what we find difficult to name. And subsequently, it is also something that transcends the private and is sharable. So above all, let art remain itself and let’s not get too weepy about the fact that we are in danger of losing our position. Because what good is a position if you don’t do anything with it? I think wherever art is about retaining power, art is going to lose in the end.”