BWW Review: OP HOOP VAN ZEGEN at Zaantheater: ALL HOPE IS LOST...
Theatre is supposed to do something to their audience, either make them laugh, make them mad, make them think, make them question life, make them cry, or in this case, make them angry.Op Hoop van Zegen is a new musical based on a Dutch classic play by Herman Heijermans.
This new adaptation of this classic play, this time in musical form, tells the story of a fisher's village, where the women spend most of their days at the pier, hoping to see the fisher boat where their loved ones are working on.
The opening sequence, with title song Op Hoop van Zegen, sets the mood for the rest of the show. Hope against better judgement, blind faith in the higher gods and basically just sheer misery.
Though it's undoubtedly an era piece, setting in a specific time in history, the story doesn't stand the test of time.
Herman Heijermans must have intended to write a play about capitalism and socialism. The only really interesting turn of event in this story, is the fact that the owner of the shipping company (Reder Bos) makes a devilish deal. His company is in serious need of cash flow, so he decides he's going to allow 'De Hoop' an old and no longer seaworthy ship to sail out to catch some fish. If the ship goes down, he will receive a large sum of money from the insurance, making 'De Hoop' a so-called coffin ship.
Especially the fact that if an employee has accepted his loan in advance, he has no choice but to board the ship and work. If not, he's forced and/or physically dragged to be on it.
What is expected, happens. De Hoop goes down and the whole crew tragically dies.
After that Reder Bos doesn't seem to have any feelings regarding the tragedy he created. His solo song, where he reminisces about his youth near the sea etc doesn't seem to make any sense, since his actions outside of the song don't reflect this at all.
The characters are portrayed as very one-dimensional. For instance Kniertje (Mariska van Kolck) who has already lost two of her children and her husband. She either is ridiculously naïve or just settles in her faith that she is gambling with the lives of her sons Geert (Gijs Stallinga) and young Barend (well-played by Robin Smits). It just makes you question whether the obvious evil guy (Reder Bos played by Bill van Dijk) is the only one to judge for the drama which unfolded.
But still, all the events happening to the characters don't seem to have much affect on them. The sad ones get sadder, the angry ones get angrier, the evil ones stay evil. There is no self-reflection, there is hardly any moral to the story, besides the fact that everyone is blaming themselves for something that was screaming in their face.
The younger generation of this story are the only ones starting up some kind of fight against their elders. Linda Verstraten as Jo (the fiancee of Geert) gives an emotional and fiery performance and sings beautifully. Robin Smits as Barends is endearing, naïve and is actually the one with the most vision. He foresees what will happen and is basically dismissed because he should listen to his elders.
The decor is simple, yet effective. The character of De Hoop, the figure head which came to life, portrayed by Melissa Groeneveld, is a smart choice. She brings the story to life as a narrator, warning the characters and/or inviting them to trust her. Her vocals are somewhat shaky though.
The music is sometimes pretty, sometimes over-the-top dramatic, sometimes eerie but does lack a sense of direction, a common thread. The combination of the dramatic events and music should make you empathise with the characters, I found myself being indifferent - which is pretty bad.
The most well-know sentence from the show: "De vis wordt duur betaald" literally means the fish is pricey, but figuratively means that the loss of life is what pays for a steady fish catch (and the salary of Reder Bos). The capitalism of the story is clear. Reder Bos doesn't care about loss of life, all he cares about is money. The class difference and their blatant disregard of the much-poorer working class is shocking, of course.
What would have helped this musical is some kind of (stronger) reaction from the characters. It just feels like there's no reason to tell the story if the characters themselves don't go through some kind of self-development...
Photo credit by: Roy Beusker