Do you remember my last play review, which was about Nachtgasten? Last Saturday, I went to see another performance of the same kind. But this time it was not of the founders of this longform, but of my very own theater group, Schwung. Normally, when Schwung has a performance, I never get to sit in the audience. I either have to play, present, side coach, or do stuff behind the screens. But this time, I wasn’t one of the actors, someone else directed the play and no-one was needed behind the screens. So after I had fed the actors with a home-baked spinach-goat’s cheese quiche, I found myself a seat next to my friend in the audience. I was really exited to see this, because since I myself had played in our previous performance of Nachtgasten, I had never seen Schwung play this format before.
Before me was set up a beautiful decor of a bank. On the right I could see a conference table cluttered with paper and empty glasses. Behind it was a cabinet filled with folders. A chart was hanging on the wall, showing this bank was nearly bankrupt. And on the left a laptop and an agenda laid on a desk, next to which surprisingly stood a water cooler. Of course, a water cooler in a company isn’t that weird. I was just astonished the preparation team had found a water cooler in our building, which is an old factory building filled with art studios and a circus room. Still amazed by this miraculous find, I decided this was a kick-ass decor for a play. It gave the actors so many opportunities to find various things to do on stage, which is a big plus in improv. But even more importantly, the decor immediately gave me the right atmosphere for the play.
Marjolein, the director of the evening, told every actor their background story and their secrets (without the other actors hearing it). In the audience, we could read along, because the most important secrets and background information were summarized in a booklet. It even contained pictures of the actors, which was a very useful feature. This longform is extremely complex, so making it visual is a very big plus for the audience.
After all the information Marjolein had given the actors, it was time for a little break. I wanted to ask Marjolein something not play-related, so I went searching for her. I ended up participating in the warming-up the actors were doing, which was very weird, since all I had to do the rest of the evening was sit, relax and enjoy. Realizing I was probably the only audience member ever to join the actor’s warm up, I decided to just enjoy the experience.
When I joined my friend in the audience again, the play was about to start already. For the first time since I’ve been involved in this longform, I felt it took too long for the first secret to be spilled. As an actor, you want to build a platform first, let everybody know your character and the situation you’re in. In every other improv format, this is really useful to do. Except for Nachtgasten. As an audience you already know everything. I knew more than the characters themselves. The platform is completely useless. As an actor, I never noticed that while playing Nachtgasten, but as an audience, I certainly did. I was waiting for the first secret to be discovered by one of the characters, and I must say, that took a very long time.
But once the box of secrets was being opened, the play immediately got more exciting. Now I could see emotions building up, frustration, anger and sadness. The actors decided to play their emotions double layered; being angry inside, but not able to let it all out because they were working in the management of the bank. I thought this was a very interesting way of displaying emotions. In real life, a bank manager also wouldn’t shamelessly let their anger out, would they? Nevertheless, I was very thrilled to see CFO Ruud explode near the end. As an audience, I was waiting for this, because I knew these characters must feel so much anger inside.
It was a heavy play with a lot of betrayal and mistrust. Therefor it was very cool that one of the characters, Martine, played a fairly dumb and clumsy person. This was the cause of many funny elements in the play. She was the Donkey next to Shrek, the Olaf next to Sven and the Pumba next to Simba. And she did it without turning her scenes into slapstick.
This was a really great performance of Nachtgasten. Since I had seen a play of the founders just a week ago, I automatically compared the two. The only improvement for Schwung I could find was to start telling their secrets earlier. Otherwise, I thought the two plays were equally brilliant. I can honestly say I found some of Schwung’s scenes even better. But as much as I enjoyed watching Schwung’s performance of Nachtgasten, and even though it helped me with my theater goal, next time we will play this format, I certainly hope to be one of the actors again!