‘A room with a view’: playfulness behind masks

| Patricia Reyes

Vrijhof Cultuur hosts ‘A room with a view’ upcoming Monday, the latest play from Theatre Hotel Courage. We asked the brains behind this theatre company, actress and producer Katrien van Beurden, what motivated her to develop this play and what the audience can expect from it.

Van Beurden has grown an interest in archetypical masks in theatre. She developed a technique in which actors metamorphose into archetypes like the impulsive player or the old man while using a mask. She quickly realized that in order to show that these archetypes can be constantly found across the world, she needed to go abroad and find them.

‘I got stuck at one point because I was talking about universal archetypes inside the black box of art institutions and conservatories,’ she confessed, ‘it started to feel quite arrogant to answer who these people are worldwide’.

Since then, van Beurden has traveled to places like Ghana, the U.S., or Palestine. From metropolis to war zones, she has encouraged people to identify themselves with an archetype and play their role by using a mask. She begins by asking the question ‘If the world would be a hotel, what would be your position in this hotel and what character would you be?’ Now, these people she has met abroad are traveling with her to be the central characters of ‘A room with a view’.

‘As long as we play, there is hope’

The play begins with the actors sharing their personal stories. Then, they improvise through playfulness, which is, as van Beurden maintains, the pillar of the play. ‘The actors I choose are from origin very generous, a lot in touch with their imagination. They play like a child would do.’

According to van Beurden, providing people with a safe environment to play can allow them to interact with each other without conflict and come out as they really are. ‘They have all been severely traumatized, but as long as they play they get into a state of happiness in which they can be whoever they want to be’, she says, ‘as long as we play there is hope’.

 An evening to connect with the stranger

By finding archetypes across the world and allowing them to play together, van Beurden hopes she can bring to light the similarities between people from different cultural backgrounds. ‘We are all literally built the same, there’s a lot of common ground. The shy boy or girl is everywhere.’

She expects this play to challenge stereotypes and the idea of the other. ‘It gives you a personal message of who the actors are and how they have experienced the world’ said Van Beurden, ‘It’s an evening to connect and to be very close to the stranger.’

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