One of the more admirable concepts in the theater world is The debut by Rudolphi Productions, in which a selection of graduation performances are sent on tour together. Experience this year The debut its tenth edition and it is of more value than ever, as the ITS Festival, which normally offers a stage for graduation performances in June, was discontinued this year.
The first of three performances of this edition is Annihilation by Aleksej Ovsiannikov (1990), graduated from the mime course of the Academy of Theater and Dance in Amsterdam. There is a voice in the dark, which appears to be his. Lying down, Ovsiannikov speaks into a hanging microphone: loose concepts, hardly any sentences. That ribbon of words is cut when a ‘technician’ raises the microphone to the ceiling.
After knocking over a pile of chairs, he sits down at the piano, after which the same technician unscrews pieces from the piano and then from his chair, including the legs, as in delayed slapstick. This produces an intriguing picture, but the intended ‘dismantling’ could have been more consistent and radical.
In Flying High by director Eva van Kleef (1998) and actress Maria Marbus (1996), who graduated respectively from the directing course and the acting course at the Maastricht Theater Academy, the Icarus myth is varied. In an energetically played verbal joust, four young people speak out about their own pride, failure, doubts, shame and vulnerability.
That goes in all directions. The four constantly clash, while there is also a longing for togetherness. In the meantime, everyone is mainly positioning themselves. Don’t be afraid to fall if you want to fly high: that’s the lesson they learn from Icarus in the end.
The most promising contribution is at the end: Skin by Jim Buskens (1996) and Manouk Pluis (1999), graduated from the performance and actor training respectively at the Maastricht Theater Academy. The first part of Skin begins with an angular, tight, somewhat burp dance sequence of his, with his face almost completely hidden in a tightly buttoned hood. She, dressed in the same way, repeats the dance, which is performed without music, after which they continue to perform it in turn. Wearing fewer and fewer clothes, making them look less and less alike. Until only the ‘skin’ of the title remains and they become individual.
Equally beautiful and strange is the non-erotic fusion of their bodies in the second part. In unimaginable ways they manage to calmly convert themselves into four-legged creatures, in unexpected postures and bends. The result is pure beauty.
A bonus, which can be viewed in a booth in the theater or at home, is the video work actually… let’s forget about me by Charlotte Gillain (1998), graduated from the mime course at the Academy of Theater and Dance in Amsterdam. A woman in bed suggests talking about love, and about her, or to leave it at that. By means of image manipulations in her face (with deepfake software), Gillain subtly poses the current question of what we see when we look at each other. How do we determine who we are, and which image tells the truth?