Hilarious location performance about the Alkmaars Relief

‘On many days in history – most of them I think – it is quite pleasant to be a Spaniard. But today, unfortunately, that is not one of them,” says actor Tijn Panis, here in the role of Spanish chef-soldier Pedro. He is standing up to his ankles in a beautifully lit waterhole, somewhere in the middle of the Oudorperpolder. It is October 8, 1573, and Pedro has just been told that he has lost the war. The day would go down in history as ‘The Alkmaars Relief’ and can still count on an exuberant party every year. And now, 450 years later, also in a theater performance.

Collective Blauwdruk has stood out in recent years for its remarkable repertoire choices. Vondel, Homer, Molière. With phenomenal language skills, the group succeeds in breathing new life into texts that are considered dated. This time no classic was used and the text was written by final director Matthijs IJgosse. Would the theater makers, who made the absurd marriage between archaic language and street jargon their trademark, survive with their own text? About a battle from 450 years ago?

Absolutely. These language fanatics tackle the Eighty Years’ War with contagious gaming fun. The result is a highly energetic performance that you would like to keep quoting from, so high is the joke density and so spot on the references to current events.

Shadow side

Spaniard Pedro is trying to push his stuck food cargo bike out of the pond when two men from Alkmaar come across the pool. These ‘Alcmarians’ (Romijn Scholten and Bram Walter) have just been told that they have won the war and are excited about their newly acquired freedom. (“We are free and we are going to hold on to this!”) But how do you do that, live in freedom? It turns out to be more difficult than expected. For example, things are already going completely wrong with the liberation party. (“Just now Jan and Allemanszoon kissed each other on the cheek, and now they are knocking each other’s teeth out because they have differences of opinion.”) And what should they do with that Spaniard? After the first reflex to immediately kill him, they decide to keep him as a ‘Spaniard for the thirsty’. (“Muy valuable!”)

What follows is a hilarious exchange about the value of traditions (“Everything that was canceled by Philip the Second is now allowed again!”), nationalism, hereditary guilt (a long scene in which the two Dutchmen direct the Spaniard in offering his n apologies) and above all: that crazy concept of ‘freedom’. “The more you used that word, the more I couldn’t understand what you actually meant by it,” says Pedro, and that’s exactly how I, as a spectator, also experienced it.

“Why not face it […] that a persistent obsession with freedom can reflect a death drive?” wrote the American writer Maggie Nelson. IJgosse quotes her as a motto in the text booklet of the performance. This performance also argues that the concept of ‘freedom’, which due to its vagueness can be used for almost any political purpose, has at least a dark side. After all, a lot of blood has already been shed in the name of freedom. In Pedro’s words: a “magnificent deception”.