Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen
Text by Joeri Smet, Alexander Devriendt and the cast
Directed by Alexander Devriendt
What is it about adolescence that brings us back time and time again? Is it the fertility of the mind, the freedom (or crushing weight) of expectation, the exploration of the body or is it none of these things and all of them all at once. Adolescence is when we taste, touch, hear, feel, see and dream at our most vivid and is not surprisingly one of the most enduring artistic muses. Belgian youth theatre group Ontroerend Goed encapsulate everything that it means to be young in their new show, the cheekily titled Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen. The ensemble, along with director Alexander Devriendt have created a piece of theatre so startling in its presentation and simultaneously devastating in its simplicity that you will leave the theatre not knowing whether to laugh or cry- but in the best possible way.
Working in a series of gradually unfolding riffs on a central sequence -13 chairs set up across the stage, gradually filled and then unfilled)- these young Belgians (all 18 or under) cause chaos on the stage. From flicking each other with elastic bands to writing on any surface they can find, they hurl themselves with barely concealed glee from pillar to post. This is dangerous theatre, with the sheer primal nature of their performance threatening at times to unseat the very foundations of the Wharf Theatre and send us all crashing down into the sea. Indeed there are moments when it seems the cast are taunting the audience to make that move, to unshackle themselves in some fundamental way.
The central concern here is what it means to be young and this is explored through the many repetitions of actions, each reproduced highlighting a differing element of the whole -from size, to movement, to intonation, to music, to dialogue, to absence. Interestingly it is the inverse that is highlighted, that through age we come to accept the seemingly endless repetitions of our lives as normal and acceptable, and do not even attempt, as these youths do, to reassert some dominance and control over our own destiny. You can’t help but sit and wonder if this is what we must look like from space, crazed and half mad but trapped in repetition and routine, and tracing the same footsteps day after day. Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen succeeds because it reminds us that once we were all young, had dreams and saw the value in disagreeing with the facts, in disputing that the sky is indeed blue- if only because we could.
Do not miss it.
You will love this if: you pull emergency exit levers just because they say not to.
You will hate this if: you’re resigned to the endless slog of adult life.
Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen is playing at Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf 2 (Hickson Road, The Rocks) in a strictly limited season until August 29th.