The film was not part of the permanent collection. It played for just half an hour, and was mostly taken down when the lights dimmed. When it appeared, it was film director Mike Molloy’s debut feature film. Its star, a husky man with dark eyebrows and damp hair called Jim Egan, wore one of Richard Nixon’s biggest hats, which made the gauzy clothing his character wore even more of a woolen straitjacket. But that didn’t matter as far as the crowd at the Flippi’s preview of the film was concerned. They fell into a deafening patter, reaching a crescendo when Egan held a rose in his hand and made one of his manliest poses.
This was the midpoint of the inaugural season for our new playhouse, which is being staged in the port city of Rotterdam, a charming backwater not much bigger than Winnipeg. The venue is 100 years old but looks new by comparison. It is an ancient wine bar-cum- theatre/ café where, every night, a gruff city councillor (Wagter Orsae, channeling Charlie Chaplin) and some of the actors from this new play flock to talk about the drama. (The play is titled Crucifixion – It Is.) Since its opening, we have seen this series of talks plus I Love You, Dan and, on the last night, Graf Intermezzo and Spoon.
There is a peculiar attraction among our audience to hear one of our big productions, though we think there might be a connection to the political nature of the plays and the choice of venue. Yesterday’s story involved the activists behind a petition to reconsider the decision not to let Berlin leave the EU (they have 250,000 signatures already). Our daily comics contain jokes that are darkly satirical and darkly dangerous. Then there are our theatre productions: we talked about these at yesterday’s sold-out cast and crew question and answer session.
View of the theatre foyer in Rotterdam. Photograph: Wolfgang Mack/LightRocket via Getty Images
Michael Grunsfeld tells us he had the idea for this play while working on a play about two party members who agreed to tell their electors where they could find the lice if they voted for their candidates (because of a scandal about the book about which they were campaigning). We talk about how each of our productions – among them a production of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem – attempts to present something of our own experience, how our events are applied to stories from across history.
We talked about being pro-Trump, Corbyn, May, Nicola Sturgeon, Vladimir Putin, pro-feminism, pro-bigotry. In Caught Infiltrating, a Palestinian comic played by William Hatwidge tells us that one reason he is an Israeli is that he owes all his success to the state: he was arrested by the PLO because he was a friend of a West Bank landowner, and has spent most of his adult life in Israeli custody.
The film was shown as part of the preview. Photograph: Gerd Krhobber/AP
And the question and answer session we hosted this evening (on the last night, I suspect) covered a lot of the same themes as the cast and crew discussion on Tuesday. We debated our production’s anti-radicalization message, both the idea that ultimately radicalisation is the result of “the things that [bloke behind] closed doors do” and the threat posed by online misinformation. One audience member talked about having her two daughters go to school dressed as Katy Perry as part of the protests about Gaza, in which they were used to teach about what Israeli children wear. She felt they were educating their kids about the dynamics of conflict, even though she “knew full well what she was doing”, and she said she felt she was doing the right thing.
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We hear a lot about dialogue breaking down in art. The audience asks us what point we are trying to make, or whether it is being made at all. We reply that we would like our audiences to engage in the conversation we are having, but only if they can see that we are still speaking from the characters’ point of view, and can imagine they are in the same position. Most of our audience actually agrees with us. I hear the arguments on all sides and do not think we are trying to produce a politics agenda.
As for the politics of the play, with which we are entirely agreed, it is a drama with a message that requires the