Let the write one in
WHEN the energy and optimism of youth meet a world of troubles, the writing is on the wall – and the floor.
Eighteen-year-old Koba Ryckewaert is better at writing than talking and so she picks up a piece of chalk and spells out her thoughts. A lot of thoughts.
The result is All That Is Wrong the latest acclaimed work from Ontroerend Goed, which returns to the Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth next week.
Koba – who is playing herself – identifies a sea of troubles and decides that by opposing she can end them. But not all of them.
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The purity and anger of previous, earlier-teen works – Once And For All... and Teenage Riot – by the innovative Belgian company gives way to the possibility of compromise, of living with what cannot be changed.
And so what could have been a deeply depressing piece is given a lift. The grown-up audience can feel a little less guilty about their own ever-growing list of compromises, but might also be motivated to remember when they were more idealistic and more motivated.
Could their list be a little shorter? And can they stick to their plan of changing what they can?
For the company founders, the piece is also a return to their youth.
"We started as a group of mutual souls who all had the urge to do poems on the stage," says director Alexander Devriendt, who co-wrote the work with Koba and Joeri Smet.
Known for their powerful and energetic work that involves – and points the finger at – audiences this is quieter (literally so: written words outnumber the spoken) and more reflective.
"I wanted to do a monologue for a long time. But monologues are one of the most difficult forms of theatre to experiment with."
Alexander admits being concerned how audiences would react. There is only one other player – Zach Hatch, who speaks some of Koba's writings – and some audio-visual elements to help the audience engage with the emerging mind map.
Theatre goers at the Drum were receptive at the three "previews" in July, but that was to be expected. The company visits regularly and this is the fifth co-production with the Plymouth theatre.
Critics and audiences were just as warm, though, when the work was presented later in the summer at the Edinburgh Fringe. Reviewers were strongly supportive and All That Is Wrong earned a Fringe First prize, awarded to high-quality original plays.
"That was such a joy," says Alexander. "It is not easy to be in Edinburgh with something quiet and intimate among all those hundreds of pieces vying for attention."
And with so many issues, from racism to war, from the economic depression to the excesses of capitalism, competing for our energies, Alexander leans towards optimism rather than despair.
"The piece is positive and constructive. There is no one answer to dealing with all the world's problems, we have to find a personal one."
All That Is Wrong is at the Drum from Tuesday next week until Saturday, November 17 (box office: 01752 267222 or www.theatreroyal.com/wrong).