Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ontroerend Goed, ‘Internal’: Blind Date

My review of Internal, part two of Ontroerend Goed’s Personal Trilogy, just as soon as I have a shot of Cointreau …

As I waited along with the rest of our five-person audience in Smock Alley to be called into the performance, the group who were in before us came out. Their reactions were mixed. One man was beaming, another was silent in thought. One woman was obviously uncomfortable and wished us “good luck” with poor assurance. Internal could discreetly take care of the more introverted theatre-goer but its boldness better suits those who are willing to embrace what it offers: the building of an “intimate” relationship in twenty-five minutes.

I described the theatrical conditions of Ontroerend Goed’s ‘Personal Trilogy’ and how effectively these illusions of ‘intimacy’ can materialise in my review of The Smile Off Your Face. While you often found yourself more subject to these conditions in Smile, this performance relies a lot more on your participation. The performance is divided into three parts: i) the suitors’ selection; ii) the one-on-one interaction with the suitor in the booth; and iii) the group interaction in which the material from the booth phase is shared publicly with the room. What makes Internal such a jackal is not knowing which way its going to go. You have no way of knowing which suitor will choose you, how their unique personality will correspond with your own, and what cards they may play. If Smile focused on the more physical quarters of private relationships, Internal tests the social parameters. How you rate it may depend on whether you built a positive relationship in that brief time or not. 

Whilst reading the comment book after the show, I noticed that many individuals had used the word “therapeutic” to describe the performance. This is an interesting use of phrase, as the description of ‘theatre’ as ‘therapy’ suggests that the live experience treats an ailment of some kind. Theatre in these close quarters can achieve, in some respects, what traditional theatre cannot. Its illusions seem more persuasive and its technique more capable of appealing to personal lives. 

I had spoken to individuals who were revisiting the show with an “objective” for as to how to perform in it. In its co-participatory elements the performance can feel like a game, and the inclination to try and push the illusionary boundaries to dictate the course of action could make one overlook what good intentions Internal has. I do believe that Devriendt and company have an objective other than to make audiences uncomfortable.

I was paired with tall and beautiful Aurélie, who has been described as unpleasantly silent and incredibly self-vain. There is accuracy in such descriptions, but in accepting them and moving on, one may come to value what she has to offer. Her lengthy silence makes attempts at conversation difficult but also questions the unnecessaries of “conversation” in romantic scenarios. Her performance is indeed an exception to the play’s focus on social relationships, as any connection with Aurélie is devoid of sharing personal information, unlike the other suitors who seemingly pry into your personality. The relationship she offers is one which appreciates the physical while also acknowledging its impossibility. In this respect I found Internal to be greatly affectionate. The awkwardness of these scenarios is circumspect of the awkwardness that human beings possess in such instances which test compatibility, and beyond this lies one of the most overlooked and touching of Ontroerend Goed’s intimate illusions: the longing for human connection.

What did everybody else think?

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