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European culture as we know it – from Plato to 3D printing – has become impotent and inward-looking. It’s time for a change. On Amsterdam’s Java Island, actors collective Wunderbaum performs the first part of their The New Forest series. Joined by a group of Amsterdam people, the actors go in search of an alternative way of living. On their quest, they try to get to grips with two thousand years of Western philosophy, so they can approach the world of tomorrow with an open mind Wunderbaum creates theatre for the future.
Wunderbaum – The New Forest
What will happen after the crisis? This was the question the actors collective Wunderbaum took as their starting point for a series of performances entitled The New Forest, a four-year search for new forms of community.
Neither utopia nor dystopia, The New Forest, according to project partner and sociologist Willem Schinkel, is a heterotopia, a place from which to view the world in a different way. Moving between reality and fiction, the project explores the process of change.
At the Holland Festival, Wunderbaum presents an overview of four years of The New Forest with The Coming of Xia, in which the actors explore the rise of China as a world power; a new piece: The Future of Sex; and a screening of their film Stop Acting Now, a mock documentary directed by Mijke de Jong, in which the actors take a closer look at their own ideals. Wunderbaum’s imagination does wonders to help us understand our changing world.
Edges of Europe
During the first six months of this year the Netherlands holds the Presidency of the European Union. But what is left of the dream of European unity? At the Holland Festival international artists present a series of performances focusing on current European issues and exploring this changing continent. The festival’s opening performance by Estonian directors Ene-Liis Semper and Tiit Ojasoo Die Stunde da wir nichts voneinander wußten shows the diversity and tensions of modern Europe. And in their film Ash and Money they focus on the phenomenon of political populism. Directors Milo Rau (The Dark Ages), Joël Pommerat (Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis), Wael Shawky (Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala) and Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha delve into Europe’s past, exploring the effect of some of its history’s darkest chapters. From the heart of Europe, the collective God’s Entertainment stages a test about chauvinism, which is causing the European dream of unity to falter. The Dutch theatre company Wunderbaum responds to European issues in its project The New Forest. A large Syrian orchestra for Arabic music will reunite for a special concert in Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn and Guests. Artists may not be able to change the world, but they can change the way we look at it.
At this year's Holland Festival, actors collective Wunderbaum will stage the last ever reprise of their 2013 hit performance De komst van Xia (The coming of Xia), with a new cast. The piece will be performed on location at the head of Amsterdam's Java Island.
As part of the Netherlands' Presidency of the European Union, this spring hundreds of students, professionals and artists will build a self-sustaining community on this site, called FabCity, where they will explore new solutions to current urban issues. It's the perfect spot to stage De komst van Xia, a performance in which the actors are joined by a group of local Amsterdam people in search of alternative forms of community, with a view to getting rid of power abuse, corruption, discrimination, inequality, food shortages, environmental problems and money grabbing.
In 2013, De komst van Xia was a first step towards the new society Wunderbaum set out to explore as part of The New Forest. With the project's kick-off, Het Begin (The Beginning), they had already got rid of our current democracy, wiping the slate clean for a new form of community. De komst van Xia was their first attempt to develop this ambition. With intellectual curiosity as well as a healthy dose of irony, the Wunderbaum actors try to get to grips with two thousand years of Western philosophy in order to approach the future with an open mind. They stage their quest in a new centre of power, a wooden arena built by Dutch architectural agency ZUS. In this arena, surrounded by the audience, the six actors conduct their debate, dressed up as philosophers complete with pipes and wigs. Adopting various ideas from Western philosophy, from Plato to Kant and Freud, they discuss what our future society should look like, how we should deal with democracy and elections and how we can square our individual interests with the common good.
Gradually they realise that it's all very well trying to build a new society from scratch, but very difficult to step outside the existing conceptual framework of one's own cultural history. Perhaps we should look beyond Western philosophies to build our future. Perhaps we will find the leadership we so urgently need outside of our own culture.
When this new leader Xia finally steps forward, there is surprise all around - she turns out to be a nine year-old Chinese girl. However absurd this choice might seem at first, it does make one curious, wrote Dutch theatre site Theaterkrant.nl: 'The fact that she is everything this society is not (female, young, Eastern, as well as a global citizen) makes her into an interesting symbol for the new beginning the group is looking for.' At the conclusion, the coming of Xia is celebrated with a ceremony of Olympic proportions.
Wunderbaum are a Dutch-Flemish actors' collective who create performances dealing with current issues, mainly on location but also in the theatre. Usually they write their own scripts based on research; occasionally they commission authors to write for them. Wunderbaum have performed in the Netherlands as well as abroad, including the United States, Iran. Scandinavia and Brazil.
They received the Mary Dresselhuys Prize and the VSCD Proscenium Prize for their oeuvre, as well as the Total Theatre Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since 2013, Wunderbaum have been working on The New Forest, a four-year collaboration with various partners, volunteers and audience members to portray society's transition to the world of tomorrow. In 2012 Wunderbaum made their debut at the Holland Festival with Detroit Dealers.
- Walter Bart, Wine Dierickx, Matijs Jansen, Maartje Remmers en Marleen Scholten, Hannah van Lunteren, Sylvia Poorta
- Victoria Fong, Selina Li, Yelin Li, Joyce NG, Stella Zhou
- composition music
- Florentijn Boddendijk, Remco de Jong
- Bureau ZUS
- Maarten van Otterdijk
- Lotte Goos
- Tobias Kokkelmans
- technical direction
- Siemen van der Werf, Rick Gobée
- Ina Oenema
- productions assistant
- Catinca Tilea
- coordination extras
- Eline Loomans
- location manager
- Yoka van Zuijlen
- location friend
- Mannis van Doodewaard
- graphic design
- Wunderbaum i.s.m. Ro Theater
- Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Operadagen Rotterdam
- part of
- Arts & Design Programme EU2016 Europe by People