I’ve never seen an Ontroerend Goed show, despite them being on my radar for the best part of four years now. I have read their brilliant book All Work And No Plays which starts by describing their core belief (I’m paraphrasing because I left the book at home): Everything in the world is ultimately pointless, but every interaction is worthwhile.
The show starts when someone comes on stage and adjusts a microphone, at least that’s what we’re told by someone who has just come on stage and adjusted the microphone, though they are not the ones opening the show - much to their chagrin, they weren’t awarded the opening scene.
Words are important here, important and simultaneously redundant, condemned to meaninglessness as the actors in the show begin again and again, vying for our trust, introducing themselves and other characters with contradicting names, sculpting meaning from thin air in front of our eyes and then dashing it into the wings.
We find a letter under our seats, it tells us that the meaning of the show is best embodied in a recreated drawing of an onion cut in half; layers and layers with another layer at its core. Peel back the skin and find more skin, or a picture of skin, not real skin just ink impersonating the real thing. The real thing, the real show, was due to go up on the 5th April but that never happened so instead the curtains dance for us in the curtains scene we've been told about, characters whose names are up for debate read us letters and to-do lists, magic is performed and trust is won and lost as the actors prepare for the opening of a cancelled performance.
What does it all mean? I think that's up to us, or up to you; I'd be surprised if we came to a conclusion together. It is a thoughtful, funny meditation on art, on the worlds we build in our heads, on where we find meaning, on truth and the fallibility of words. It is layer upon layer upon layer, and it's fascinating work to pick at them for them an hour and then, of course, continuing to do so as the show follows you around in your head.
Every Word Was Once An Animal is on at Zoo Southside until the 28th August, tickers are here.