While “collaborative” means different things to different people, in respect to theatre, it means the members of a group either take on no specific roles or take them on loosely. Dutch collaborative theatre company Dood Paard dispenses with giving anyone the title of “director,” preferring to shape their pieces together along with their sound and light designers. And while Oscar van Woensel holds down the initial duties of crafting a story, the actors — one of whom is van Woensel — help shape the story until it’s fully realized.
The company has a varied repertory, often political in subject and provocative in tone, tackling classics and new works that they often keep in rotation for years at a time; they also sometimes work with DJs and produce films and TV programs.
For their Spoleto production, medEia, Dood Paard utilizes and expounds upon the meaty subject matter of the classic Greek tragedy that centers on Medea, who abandons her family and homeland to stand by her man, Jason, who eventually leaves her (and their two small, vulnerable children) for a younger woman. After Jason’s betrayal, Medea exacts the most heinous revenge imaginable, hitting Jason where she knows it’ll hurt the most: his bloodline.
“We don’t want to create a circus or to tell fairy tales where the world is more beautiful than it in fact is,” van Woensel says. “In medEia we wanted to talk about love. And in this way it’s a very emotional myth. The mother kills her child-sons because she wants to revenge her ex-husband. Her last words before she does this are, ‘It was love, nothing but love.’ We want the audience to understand her. And to understand a murderer of her children is almost impossible. Almost — we think. She lost everything, gave up everything; her country, her family … the next thing you know is that he falls in love with a pretty young powerful princess and he leaves medEia. She goes crazy in a way. She is a very emotional and extreme woman. The first sentence of the play is: ‘I’m so sad.’ I think this is the main emotional perspective of our approach.”
medEia‘s cast, which also consists of Kuno Bakker, Manja Topper, and Iwan Van Vlierberghe, will portray various roles in the production, but mainly the role of the Greek chorus. The chorus, traditionally, serve as commentators on the action, sometimes offering opinion and sometimes relaying information. Dood Paard were fascinated, especially as an often political company, with the idea of the impotent chorus — being able to observe everything but do nothing.
“In medEia we tell the story from the point of view of the chorus,” van Woensel says. “The chorus is not able to act. They can just describe what happens and what they think about it, but they can’t do anything. For us this is a metaphor for us; being citizens of western Europe. We look at the world but there’s nothing we can do.”
medEia • Spoleto Festival USA • Theater • $30 • (1 hour 15 min.) • June 1, 4, and 5 at 8 p.m.; June 2 at 2 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philips St. • 579-3100