“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog

Review: Gotterfunken, Rosa Ensemble, Huddersfield Bates Mill, November 2011

We began with an apology. A man dressed in Lycra stood up from the audience, and established himself as Dutch with a single word: “Hey”. The apology was of local concern—an explanation that, due to Government changes in the Netherlands, we are unlikely to see Dutch arts groups touring for a while. The connotation was broad—an apology for the failure of the European project. And yet…there was a glimpse of optimism. Perhaps, rather than being the responsibility of insitutions, European fellowship could be reconstructed from casual meetings across the continent.

And so we began proper. We began with an animation—a live animation, drawn on a piece of paper and projected on a screen. And then an explanation. Two people spent three months cycling 9000 miles around Europe, meeting people, singing, drinking vodka, and smoking one cigarette a day. This was their story, delivered through video, animation, songs and anecdotes.

It’s said that storytellers should show not tell. They did both. It worked. Sometimes we want to hear the story direct—like the person on the other side of the (unnamed) national border who screamed at them “Go back to where you came from! Whereever it is, it’s better than here!”. Sometimes we want something more impressionistic, a blur of maps, photographs and recorded sound.

We ended with a blurring of roles. Musicians, actors, stagehands stood up to give their opinion: just an attempt to recreate careless teenagehood, or a celebration of European unity? Then a recapitulation of a song to finish.

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