Stumbling through life

The victims are enumerated nonchalantly. One perpetrator murdered 28 of them single-handedly, the other many more.  Someone asks en passant who would like more whipped cream. Conversation switches easily from the horrors of war to trivial yearnings.

Stan based its rather curiously titled Redde wie zich redden kan ( Save yourself if you can or Run for your lives ) on Thomas Bernhard’s Dramoletten . The company has already shown that it is well able to handle his razor-edged scripts.  The ‘Dramoletten’ can be seen as finger exercises for Bernhard’s larger works. They are short sketches about the Nazi past and about Fascism in which it is mainly the petits bourgeois who have their say; like the soldiers who boast about their war exploits while enjoying coffee with cream, or the neighbours who, following the death of a fellow-villager, turn indiscriminately on the foreigners in the area.

The five sketches are compressed into a neat structure. Each is preceded by a dressing-up session by the three actors and followed by a stylish bow. Music is heard in-between, especially the Radetzky March, which for us will always be associated with the father in Turks Fruit with his titsass, tits ass, tits-ass-ass-ass.

Another important characteristic of style is that of resistance. Stan rarely if ever performs in a neatly ordered stage set. The tarpaulin which is brought down at the start of the play falls over the clutter on the stage floor. Now and then Damiaan dives under the tarpaulin to retrieve the vital props. This provides ten highly comical scenes, particularly when he fumbles with a folding table with amazing ineffectiveness.

The actors stumble as they constantly fight their way through the mountain of clutter: a fine metaphor for the ups and downs of life.

The three actors have a strong presence on stage. It is fascinating to see how quickly they can switch from rational, civilized citizens into thugs who speak a language of terror. Yet the performance begins to drag towards the end, perhaps for the simple reason that the scripts are based on the backbiting of ‘ordinary’ people and that vocabulary is limited. In the end you long for a real Thomas Bernhard.

Haarlems Dagblad, Margriet Prinssen, February 25th 2005