A World Within A World — Which is real and which is the stage?
At some point we didn’t know which people were part of the act and who were just passers-by?
SPOILER ALERT: If you happen to be lucky enough to be planning on seeing this presentation, but you’d rather not really know so much about how it all works, just stop reading now. However, if you’re nowhere near Rotterdam, The Netherlands and are interested in a theater program like nothing you’ve ever even heard of, read on.
About 100 people sat on bleacher-style benches all facing the same way. On a long boat. On a river in the city of Rotterdam. As I was only invited last minute, I had no idea what we were in for. That was a good thing.
The surprise of what came next was half the fun.
We all wore headphones and as soon as we took off, voices filled our ears. Within seconds, we realized that the voices were coming from people on the side of the waterway. Aha, actors.
“Toen wij van Rotterdam vertrokken” is a unique outdoor theater production (from Maas Theater / Dans) like no other — or at least no other that I’ve ever seen.
Then there was a woman in a red dress. Then a man in a pastel blue suit who was blind. Then a captain with a chalky face, maybe he was supposed to be dead.
I had trouble following the story not so much because it was in Dutch, but because I couldn’t get over the idea that the audience was traveling on a boat on a waterway in a city while the actors walked along the edge of the water on the streets, through parks, on sidewalks, all the while talking, acting, and living a world that only we were witnessing.
Well, mere mortal city goers were also aware of something odd going on, too. They say people dressed a little different, talking as if, well, maybe as if they were part of a theater. But did the locals think that? Maybe they had no idea what was going on. Did they notice that 100 people were intently listening to each word the actors were saying? But how did they hear them? Oh, they’re all wearing headphones.
Or they had no idea what was going on.
Behind one scene a car crashed into another. If that was part of the act, that was some planning. But it wasn’t, of course, it just happened because the stage was the city.
We floated under bridges that rose up as we passed under them. We even went through a lock system and while we waited for the water to rise, the actors continued their scene right in front of us. Just for us. A world within another world.
Although the citizens of the city could see the actors and see us, they weren’t a part of this world. They didn’t have the audio, the background, the story. They were onlookers, but not participants. It was glorious to be a part of.
As a fiction writer, this just pressed all kinds of buttons. I thought about Charlie Holiday and how this must be how he feels as he walks around a city and sees things differently than others. He’s also in a world within a world that no one else can experience — or can they?
It’s just plain fun to be part of a world that others don’t or can’t experience. I get it that Charlie has a secret liking to it all. We also were part of something special while cruising the waterways of Rotterdam.
We were part of a world within another world.