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Struggling with finding your own identity. Being truthful to who you are. But who are you really? Are you the person you want to be, or are you the person others want you to be?

This was what the play ‘Zichzelf’ (translated as ‘Themselves’), performed by STeL on March 6, was all about. This sounded so interesting and promising, I just had to see this play. So I went with Ruud and four people from my theater group Wow-Effect. Since this play would be performed on the very stage we will be performing ourselves in May, this was a great opportunity to get to know the stage a bit.

When we entered the room, we were surprised to see a girl hula hooping on stage, as though she were in a trance. It was really impressing, she hula hooped for at least ten minutes (but probably even more, as she was already doing it when we entered the room), without her hula hoop falling down once! Behind her on the stage was a door. Nothing peculiar seemed to be the matter with the door, until heads were pooping out on either side of it. Four people were standing behind this door and were now curiously watching the girl hula hoop. Enchanting music was playing in the background. The combination of the hula hooping girl, the curious heads and the beautiful music made it really mesmerizing.

Tanya's 101 ~ Play No. 2: Zichzelf by STeL | Lindenberg Theater Nijmegen| Theater Review

After a couple of scenes however, the mesmerizing feeling was overruled by confusion. All scenes were small fragments of a bigger part. In every scene another person was the lead character, so it was hard to see what this bigger part actually was. Also, the scenes were rather abstract, which didn’t help to make it any clearer. I was trying not to think to much about this. The connection between all these fragments would surely become clear at the end of the play, I thought.

So I told myself just to enjoy the scenes. I thought the actors were really great. They had to do a lot of silent play, which I know is very hard, but they all did a very great job at it. I thought a couple of scenes were really strong. I especially loved the scene where the boy was losing everything he had. We saw him slowly getting mental. The voices of the people who were responsible for his losses started to haunt him. Because they all kept talking simultaneously, it was as if we could here the voices in his head. The moment he started shouting to get rid of these voices, was the most powerful part of the play, in my opinion. Even though the voices stopped, the boy still kept shouting. I could really feel his pain, as well as his mental insanity. This probably was the best scene I’ve ever watched on stage.

Tanya's 101 ~ Play No. 2: Zichzelf by STeL | Lindenberg Theater Nijmegen| Theater Review

Some scenes were extremely vague however, which I didn’t care for so much. For example, one of the girls started dancing on stage all of a sudden. She really gave it her all, but it never became really clear to me why she was dancing in the first place. In another scene, a girl was talking to people who weren’t visible. She didn’t seem crazy though. So why was she talking to thin air? I never found out. Besides vagueness, there also was a lot of repetition in certain scenes. Repetition of lines or repetition of movements. Sometimes, this made a scene really strong, such as the scene with the boy described above. It was also very powerful in a scene in which a girl ignored her own prayers and chose to act in a promiscuous way instead. The moment she got back to her prayers, I could feel her guilt, fright and despair. But sometimes, I thought the repetitions were a bit dreadful. A girl who didn’t like to be touched by the crowd she was in, kept fleeing and then coming back to this very same crowd. Nothing changed in her physique, it was as if we’d just rewinded the scene and started all over.

When the lights were turned on again, my friend who was sitting next to me asked me if it was the end of the play. I honestly didn’t know. It could be the break, after all, we had so many unanswered questions and confusions regarding the play. But somehow, the brightness of the light told me it was the end. And I was right. The cast walked back on stage and bowed for us.

Tanya's 101 ~ Play No. 2: Zichzelf by STeL | Lindenberg Theater Nijmegen| Theater Review

I had enjoyed most scenes, even though they had struck me with confusion. I was so convinced all would be connected in the end. But it hadn’t. At the end of the play, all we’d gotten was bits and pieces, fragments which didn’t seem to connect at all. I was wondering if it was a bad play, of if I just was a bad audience. Maybe I’m not suitable for abstract plays. Maybe I just don’t get it. When I talked about this with the people I was with, I noticed I wasn’t the only one struck with confusion. They didn’t get it either. They also missed the dots being connected.

I must say, after a few days, I got a lot more of the play. I reconstructed some of the scenes in my head, I read some character descriptions on the Facebook page of STeL. That really helped, because now it became clear that the lead players were always the same characters, which wasn’t very clear after just seeing the play. Also reading their theme helped a lot to understand some scenes better. I’d rather had found this out on my own by watching the play though.

So all in all, I’ve seen a play with beautiful elements, some strong scenes, powerful characters and great actors. Still, I don’t know if I would go see another play of this group in the future, because I also ended up feeling a lot of confusion. I really missed the connection between all the fragments. I understood too little of the play to be able to fully love it. However, this group also performed the most powerful scene I’ve ever watched on stage. Just as this play, my opinion too is scattered into fragments.

Goal-wise however, I can be very pleased with this evening. I watched my second play out of the 25 I’m planning to watch. Hey, and they can’t be all as brilliant as the first one, right?

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