Dood Paard, one of Holland’s leading and spunkiest theater companies, will return to American shores, November 28-December 9, with three critically-acclaimed U.S. premieres —“Freetown,” “Othello (bye bye)” and “Answer Me,” each of which examines the dangers of xenophobia with great wit and imagination. Presented by La Mama, the plays, under the umbrella title “STOCK XENOPHOBIA,” take place in the First Floor Th eatre.
With a name that turns heads (Dood Paard translates to dead horse), the innovative Amsterdam based company works as a collective with no director, stage manager, set designer or dramaturge; its members make all artistic decisions. Engagement is key to the company culture; sets are built on stage as each show unfolds, inviting the audience to visually engage in the process. All of its themes are drawn from issues of current concern, with xenophobia certainly one presently infecting cultures world-wide in obvious and subtle ways.
Rob de Graaf ’s award-winning play “Freetown” tells of three female European tourists who meet in Venus Beach, a West-African resort, in search of fun including a romp or two with a gorgeous dark-skinned African man available for a not-unreasonable price. For the vacationing women, the island is one of freedom and gorgeous scenery. Invisible to them, however, is the haunting poverty, oppression and despair suggested by the thousands of tin cans that litter the stage. What happens when one of the women naively decides to bring her African fl ing back to her own country? For her role in “Freetown,” Dood Paard actress Lies Pauwels won the award for “Best Actress in a Theatre Production” from the Association of Dutch Th eatres and Concert Halls, one of the highest honors in Dutch theater.
“Othello (bye-bye),” described as a “slap stick tragedy,” is performed by two actors and a technician. Th e show plays loosely with Shakespeare’s tragic tale, modernizing the action and demonstrating the contemporary relevance of the play’s original themes of love, racism and jealousy. Th e multi-layered
work takes place on a stage that evolves into a sailing ship and Pandora’s box, constructed of loose wooden planks that progressively fall asunder.
The actors turn to the audience for responses in “Answer Me.” In a bleak, faceless space that eerily suggests a jail, camp or constantly shifting place of confi nement, semi-clothed performers hurl an endless series of questions at the audience before turning these questions onto one of their own.
Throughout, words and thoughts run together, hang listlessly in the air or ricochet off each other, resulting in confusion, entrapment and eventually, a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be cornered, tortured and defenseless. Gerardjan Rijnders, acclaimed as one the most important playwrights and directors in the Netherlands, wrote the script, which Paul Evans translated into English.