sarah van lamsweerde


With Guest Appearances By
dir. Sarah van Lamsweerde, Het Veem Theater, October 2008

I felt like I was being taken on a tour of a grand old house (with stone walls).
All I could see were the black curtains blowing slightly, flimsy as a photograph, but the feeling remained.

The house became a body, complete with scars, each with their own history. ‘The back door is stuck’ said a voice into my ear. This door, which leads to the library, seemed to be the house’s soft spot, the part that was slowly caving in or could collapse suddenly like a pack of cards.

Using only the wooden floorboards of the theatre and a maze of curtains, these ‘guests’ -for that is what I call the performers - lend their bodies and imaginations to create a world inspired by an old photograph.

I imagined them (van Lamsweerde and guests) staring at this picture for hours. Perhaps one doesn’t even need to know that this picture is an old photo of the van Lamsweerde family. The text they have collected is as colourful as gossip, deliciously removed from fact. (‘He looks like he’s from somewhere else’. ‘My breasts feel like bullets, I imagine them rolling on the floor.’) The words have an innocence about them, sometimes as vague as a child’s memory. ‘It looks like a nice day, somewhere in the countryside..’

The voice prompts my thoughts, blurring the distinction between my thoughts and the soundtrack. (‘I wonder how many people sat here?’) So close to my ear, I feel I can hear their thoughts, perhaps even step into their bodies. Performer Tashi Iwaoka sits hunched over himself for a long while (‘I feel like a mummy, so dry. Who will find me?’) and I am an invisible tourist, watching. I’m glad I am not alone in this empty hour of time gone by. The audience (in groups of eight) is herded along gently, with the light that fades and comes up again through another corridor. Occasionally a guide appears out of nowhere to offer an arm to direct us through a parted curtain.

We cover the same ground repeatedly I’m sure, and yet each time is different. I start to recognise each of the six voices and their corresponding bodies. Their unhurried air allows me to sink into this place. I watch them carefully, even after they have gone, leaving empty wooden chairs.

Later, I wondered what made the lump catch in my throat, my vision blur for a moment. When we were granted the view from above, sitting on chairs overlooking the stage, I watched them move around the house, calmly, shifting a chair here and there, arranging the curtains.. like guests, walking through a period of time, trying to embody it. Sitting up there satisfied what must be a collective childish urge to hear the story I never tire of, where do we come from?

A question that remains in my head; Is that how they (the future generations, for surely they will come, financial crisis or no) will look at my thirty four year old self, smiling out at them through the frame?

Performer Bojana Mladenovic stands in her pose as the man from somewhere else. We, the tourists, are gathered behind her. For a moment we are part of the picture, posing, stuck in the same afternoon somewhere in the countryside.

E. Mugambi