Edinburgh Fringe 2012
An 18 year old girl sits centre stage in a pink jumper and dark jeans, her blonde hair and thick fringe covering most of her face. She isn’t some drama school product, she’s a real girl and has taken on the task of considering all that is wrong with the world. This show is simple and stunning, it takes on the big issues but the point is personal; how do ‘I’ connect with all of this.
All that is wrong is the final part of a trilogy, ‘Once and for all’ and ‘Teenage riot’ have come before all holding the theme of adolescence and performed by teenagers. Koba Ryckewaert has been in both of these works, and now in All that is wrong, she has the final say.
To introduce the show a slide projector is switched on and we flick through statements of protest and inspiration. When people have put into words what is wrong with the world; ‘protect the wild flowers’, ‘homosexuals are possessed by demons’, ‘the kids are NOT all right’. The act of writing out what is wrong, to express in words, to stand in silence and hold a placard, to spray paint a wall and run away, is strong within our culture. And so the use of written text in this piece as main communicator, and actual language very limited, is directly referring to these political and historical actions. The written word in performance is also practically and dramatically effective.
Text in performance is an interesting contemporary concept and can be spotted in works of Forced Entertainment (Filthy Words and Phrases, 12am; Awake and looking down) and other pioneering contemporary practitioners. As an audience we have a different experience reading rather than listening, there is something more contemplative, their is space to think, the words can be erased and rewritten – the very structure of language and of thought can be drawn out and demonstrated before us – it can be funny.
Koba slowly draws on a board on the floor ‘I’, she draws a circle around it and then draws a line away from it, here she writes girl. She writes 18. She writes Belgium. And then she stops for a minute. When you are 18 there isn’t much to write, your sense of identity is a very small pool as you are yet to study more specially, travel to great locations, meet the people who will help to define you. She is making a mind map just about her self, she includes her family, she adds in detail, we learn that she thinks he sister is awesome and that she sees her dad on sundays 2pm – 7pm. She slowly starts to unravel her own life into a series of connections. Her mother doesn’t have much money, she has very thin legs, she is a ‘introvert’. The board is getting full so she asks her assistant, a man who has been sitting quietly by, for more boards, he brings them in obediently and the boards cover the whole stage. She now can extend her map.
A camera is set up with a live feed that projects her scrawling up onto the wall. Youtube clips are played, recorded and layered and she begins to respond to them in writing. CRISIS she adds. ENVIRONMENT. WAR. MONEY. she links thinks up and becomes frantic in her writing. BELGIUM – FLEMISH – POLITICS – WAR – VIOLENCE – PAIN. She has now found herself within the problems of the world, and tries to link them to herself. VANITY – her thin legs – SUPERFICIALITY. CRISIS – MONEY – her mother. She stands alone in a sea of words, on the floor and projected in front of her and either side. The recordings from the you tube clips are babbling away. Punk music and Rap music are overlaid. She has unleashed the world into the space and now stands in it trying to comprehend what she is in. the ‘I’ she first wrote still the centre point of a now muddy and enormous map of words.
She chooses words to be wiped out and replaced with heavy metal letters; they clink as they are placed. RELIGION, FEAR are replaced by metal letters. She picks out the instigators, the big monsters on the board, and they sit heavy and menacing.
A rope and hook hang at the back of the stage, Koba pulls the boards towards it and starts to hoist. The boards are connected and follow suit, being dragged up by the pulley. Koba’s assistant comes to help. The map of words rises and as it does the metal letters fall with such a crash. It is as though the world is crumbling, an avalanche of letters, and she stands before it to just see the by-products (starbucks, plastic surgery, nuclear waste). Now hoisted and finished she can now contemplate some action, some change. That maybe if she just doesn’t by coca cola, maybe if she donates every month, maybe if… she can solve one of these problems. There seems to be little she can actually do, and by writing down possible solutions in front of this grave mess of problems looming above her they seem pointless.
What can we actually do, how do the problems of the world relate to us, in particular how can a young 18 year old comprehend the enormity of everything?
The subject matter and manner in which it is presented is extremely relevant, simple and effective. Dramatically I was engrossed from beginning to end, the artistic choice of sticking to one action throughout is brave and admirable, and this case terrifically successful. Koba completely held her performance, she allowed herself to just get on with it, she was aware of us but not affected. She exuded a passion for the world, an aggression too… she gives us faith. This piece gives us faith in the next/current generation.
Koba takes a photo of her creation; this is then freshly printed out with programme notes on the back and handed to us as we leave. This use of technology, immediacy and attention to the moment of performance demonstrates why Ontroerend Goed are the Theatre Company of today. I completely rate them, and anyone who has an interest in contemporary theatre, in performance – what it can be, what it can mean and why is it relevant, should see their work. They are the only company that before going into the theatre I get a little nervous, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen to me, this brings the theatre alive.
All That is Wrong is a wonderfully subtle work from a company who has the ability to be outrageous. They have been pensive and selective with this material and it has huge strength. All That is Wrong presents one person’s battle with the problems of the world in a real way – there are no solutions, there is no save the day climax, it is simply a young person who cares.