Review: De Wetten, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam

Eline Arbo makes her mark as new AD of Internationaal Theater Amsterdam with the brilliant De Wetten (The Laws)

“Je schrijft het, omdat je het niet kunt zeggen”

The Norwegian Eline Arbo took over from Ivo van Hove as Artistic Director of Internationaal Theater Amsterdam late last year and UK audiences will get the chance to see her work with Penthesilea at the Edinburgh Festival this summer, following on from the extraordinary The End of Eddy in 2022. If you can’t wait til then, she has just opened De Wetten (The Laws) in the Dutch capital.

Adapted by Arbo and dramaturg Peter Van Kraaij from Connie Palmen’s hugely successful 1991 novel, we follow the experiences of philosophy student Marie as she wrestles dreams of independence and becoming a writer with the inevitable impact that other people have on her personality and her voice. Addressing the audience directly, she leads us through these seven significant encounters.

On Roel Van Berckelaer’s circular set, increasingly littered with detritus – both physical and emotional – Ilke Paddenburg’s Marie is an engaging central presence, reflecting back on her relationships with shape-shifting playfulness and pathos. As she dallies with the astrologer, the epileptic, the philosopher, the priest and the physicist – both male and female – the lessons of life are entertainingly learned.

Varja Klosse’s fluctuating lighting emphasises the mutability of memory, this is very much Marie’s version of her story, and Thijs van Vuure’s compositions grow in complexity as experience layers up on her soul. Ultimately, something more profound happens with the artist (a fantastic Eelco Smits), a deeper connection found that silences the (sometimes) flippant commentary and pushes her through to a greater truth. Exhilarating stuff.

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