Isn’t it wonderful to surrender to something completely? Get out of that daily reality, switch off your phones and enjoy. Okay, too bad you only meet like-minded people there. And that it is so expensive, otherwise you would probably go there much more often.
Wait, are we talking about theater visits or a holiday in the sun on an exotic island? Whoever thought that the differences between Temptation Island and De Warme Winkel could not be greater, will be disappointed, confused and cheerfully satisfied from A sincere ode to irony.
The irony is under fire, says theater group De Warme Winkel, and that is serious business. In art, in the social debate and in the social context, the stylistic device is increasingly regarded as an (elitist) sign of weakness: an easy way to categorically avoid or undermine sincerity, a diversionary maneuver that mainly conceals a nihilistic void.
So De Warme Winkel actors Ward Weemhoff, Vincent Rietveld, Florian Myjer and guest actress Hannah Hoekstra saddled themselves with a group of ‘real’ influencers and reality stars (including from Tempation Island and Ex on the Beach): Danicio Codfried, Lesley Versprille, Bella and Shirley Cramer.
Unlike the theater makers, they are averse to irony and false meanings. They are mocked mercilessly in an exaggeratedly caricatured opening scene: in an utterly meaningless dialogue they display an endless sluggishness. A little chatter about butt and breasts, while attempts to go into the depths invariably fail before they even get off the ground.
But you don’t have to be an observant viewer to see the professional actors, halfheartedly tucked in the set, dub their voices. It is therefore explicitly a subjective adaptation: that is how the theater company looks at these reality stars. That is vintage De Warme Winkel: their disruptive theater oeuvre is laced with irony. You can often assume that with scenes they mean something different than you might suspect on the surface. But isn’t that also an all too comfortable starting position? Because anyone who doesn’t agree with it simply hasn’t understood the irony.
Weirde sex date
In a Temptation Island-like environment – luxury villa, outdoor bar, hot tub – the actors and reality stars carry out group assignments. Around it they drink cocktails and have ambiguous conversations in swimming trunks or bikinis. Of course everything is filmed, complete up to the weird sex date that two candidates earned with a challenge earlier. In a disclaimer before the start, the voice-over warns that the performance will also be played by “real people”. He adds, by way of clarification, that these are all about “stupid people” who come from “underprivileged backgrounds”.
Gradually, the emptiness of the reality stars is increasingly contrasted with the emptiness of these postmodern theater makers, who, for example, can ore at length about irony without realizing that the other person has been confusing it with eroticism all the time. The scene is significant in which the professional actors reflect on the process in a closed circle and gossip about their fellow actors, while the reality stars meanwhile enjoy the evening uninhibitedly and get ready for a party. While De Warme Winkel is constantly aware of the differences and therefore isolates itself, there are far fewer assumptions the other way around. When the youngest collective member Florian Myjer rudely opposes his own company in an emotional monologue, the fragmentation is complete. Until later it turns out that that monologue was written by Weemhoff.
It culminates in a hilarious and very alienating ritual, in which they, as brainwashed ironies, profess their faith as deadly serious. For example, with A Sincere Ode to Irony, the company sets up an exciting theatrical labyrinth at the intersection of sincerity and irony.
Also read: final director Jetse Batelaan and maker Vincent Rietveld about the making process of A sincere ode to irony
The performance heads for a remarkably classical conclusion: as characters in a Greek tragedy, they are propelled by antagonistic forces towards a catharsis, in the form of a post-ironic dystopia without deeper meanings: a true hell. Fortunately, a real deus ex machina brings the company back to their comfort zone, purified.
How they escape is a matter of perception. De Warme Winkel undeniably finds its way back to their familiar theater through irony. But what is irony for the theater collective is purely sincere for the reality stars. Left or right: the case is settled in a very festive closing scene in which irony and sincerity go hand in hand.
Or is that ironic?
A heartfelt ode to irony
The Warm Store. Seen: 31/10, International Theater Amsterdam. Tour until 8/12. Inl: dewarmewinkel.nl
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