Turn Left At the Canal
Posted on May 25, 2011
The title of the play, “Bij het kanaal naar links” — “Turn Left At the Canal”– was appealing enough: I used to live close to a canal and my mom was relentless in trying to keep me away from that mysterious child-beckoning waterway. Bad, bad people roamed the banks, she said, no place for children. Needless to say her warnings lured me to that baleful place like a firewall lures a hacker to a website.
The writer of the play is Alex van Warmerdam. He is a prize-winning Dutch playwright, poet, actor and scenarist. I love his quirky and brazen sense of humor that darkens the worlds he creates, worlds in which the crazy seems the accepted standard.
The play started with a warning to the audience: “I see a full house. It’s all happening outside, but you have decided to come here. I’m not sure whether that was a wise decision. I advise you to keep your expectations low.”
The warning was unnecessary. It turned out to be as absurd as I had hoped it would be. Leading Dutch actor Pierre Bokma played his character, a wheeler-dealer-turned-glue-sniffing-old-man, with such passion that it made me wonder what was really in that paper-bagged tube he kept sniffing from. When the old man tried to wriggle his way back into the enterprises of his very contained son, the son erupted: “You’re an old man! Behave like an old man! Go outside, look at the sky, count the sparrows.”
I felt my years…
Van Warmerdam compares his style to that of nature films: “In that genre you see animals mate, eat, and even eat each other. My characters do that too; they fight, mate, and eat like crazy.”
That comparison gives you quite a different view on humanity, doesn’t it?