I love Ontoerend Goed; whether it’s their audience-dividing masterpiece that was Audience last year or something life changing and unique like A Game Of You, I have been a massive fan for years. Which is why I was so quick to snap up tickets for their new production ‘All That Is Wrong’ at the Traverse, as ambiguously described as ever and as shrouded in mystery as I have come to expect from the company.
Deep in the bowels of the Traverse, ‘All That Is Wrong’ features an eighteen year old girl and her male companion chalking out not only what makes them the people they are, but the challenges against humanity; war, capitalism, drugs, sex, violence, dictatorships and the like are sprawled out across the stage and shown in an assortment of ways I do not wish to exploit for fear of it somehow being a spoiler. But the thing is, the very premise of the show is all the show is: a show that demonstrates all that is wrong with the world.
One should laud Ontoerend Goed for their exploration of didactic theatre. In your face, on the walls and all around you your opinions and ideas are put under a microscope by the objective list of what is wrong and what is right shown before you. There is no allegory, no illusion, but flat out political statement; the world has these things wrongs with it, and it is up to us to try and find our ways of fixing them, though there may be nothing. The problem is that although a fascinating analysis of what it is to be theatre with a message, it ends up not really having anything to substantiate the debate. From the moment it begins you are waiting for the moment the company provide their twist on the genre, where they challenge us, where they ask us why we are laughing at ideas of evil and corruption that we ourselves are- willingly or not- implicit in. But this never comes. Instead the show continues in the same vein and we are left feeling less like our insides have been knotted with self-hatred or realisation, but more that we are merely having somebody preach to a very converted crowd. Nobody in the room, or in many rooms, is going to argue the inherent evil of extremist dictatorships or unnecessary violence (which is, in fact, what they should have concluded themselves from ‘Audience’, a show that explored exactly this.)
If you are interested in seeing where you sit on a show that, as always, straddles performance art and theatre magnificently, you should buy yourself a ticket. If you want entertainment or something that will change your mind, go see something else, or better yet go back and watch one of the companies previous shows. The world clearly has enough that is wrong with it without bad theatre to add to it.