Two men in suits (Roland Haufe and Phi Nguyen) hang out on a couch in a nightclub. They discuss weighty matters as the alcohol flows freely and a pole dancer on a nearby stage shows off her skills. The cliché-rich image is completed by the frat ball accent in which the gentlemen converse with each other, which gets thicker and thicker the more they drink themselves into their collars.
You sit as a spectator for a long time STRAIGHT, the new performance by the Veenfabriek, waiting for a reversal or contrast effect with the archetypal situation that you are presented with. Apart from the musicians dressed in androgynous costumes on the right side of the stage, everything and everyone in the performance submits to existing role patterns in terms of class and gender. The rich men talk and stare at the ‘working girls’, who in turn remain silent and act professionally subservient.
Due to the fact that the men, lawyers, constantly talk about laws, law and justice, you suspect that writer and director Joeri Vos wants to denounce the entrenched norms that he shows. STRAIGHT bets on such a reading at the beginning through a monologue by the pole dancer (Niki Verkaar) about Eve as the source of the knowledge of good and evil, but since her role does not develop in the play, that angle remains undernourished.
Human rights speech
Vos is at his best as a writer when he can immerse himself in the details of complex socio-political themes, and that also produces the most beautiful scenes in STRAIGHT on. The lawyers have arrived at the nightclub because they have to write a speech on human rights, but meanwhile lose themselves in analyzes of the ramshackle state of international law.
In a beautiful passage, Nguyen, in a dazed state, goes through the centuries-long conflict between Venezuela and Guyana, while he sways more and more violently to the rhythm of the music. The performance comes to life most in the jazzy exchanges between colleagues.
However, on balance it does not lead to new insights. Vos seems to have allowed himself to be guided too much by the cynical and stale image of man that he has spooned up by one of the characters: human civilization is said to revolve inevitably on sex, ‘confirmation bias’ (the tendency of man to confirm his own ) and scarcity. That is why we fail to build a just world.
If imagination of that idea is STRAIGHT successful, but its unimaginative essentialism makes the performance a rather perfunctory exercise.