Everything was quiet. There was a sense of seriousness in the air. But my chair was shaking – just like the chairs next to me – because of my laughter. I broke into a sweat and shoved my scarf into the back of my throat in order to stop laughing.
It was 2004, I was 16 years old, and it was my first ever visit to the Stadsschouwburg theatre in Groningen. Here I saw a professional theatre performance for the first time in my life.
The actors were lying on stage naked, wrapped in plastic. I witnessed people having theatre sex and saw a running and screaming Halina Reijn play Electra (as early as that!). My laughter was not triggered by something funny; I was laughing because I felt extremely uncomfortable. This feeling was intensified by the fact that I was sitting alongside my mother, my friend, and her mother too. I could feel people looking at me and I felt very embarrassed. This was not at all necessary, as I’d say to myself now, but at that time, I didn’t know what to do. The performance went on for hours and I was torn between amazement and not knowing what to think. In the end it didn’t matter that I hadn’t understood half of what was happening during the performance. Besides everything I had witnessed on stage, it was the full experience that I’d felt running from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes that made me lose my heart to theatre.
What about all these other senses?
We seem to become more and more out of touch with our senses. We learn to naturally discover our senses from a very young age, but in the end we mainly focus on our eye-sight. Everything we do is all about what we (can) see. Instagram is a good example of this. And we always say that we ‘see a theatre performance’. But what about all these other senses?
Wouldn’t our experiences be a lot more intense if we were more aware of all of our senses? Maybe people have different favourite senses. I, for instance, like to overthink my experiences when I’m in a theatre, and I enjoy being swept away by my own emotions and by that of the people on stage. But my experiences are also coloured by my sense of smell (not only in the theatre by the way). I only recently discovered this at De Grote Harten Club. Even though I see – oops, experience! – around 150 performances every year, just one get-together of this club let me get back in touch with all my senses. Prior to the show all of our senses were triggered and then during the show itself an appeal was done to every one of them, one by one.
What you hear, see, feel, taste or smell makes your experiences unique!
What if you cannot hear? What do you experience then? Or what happens if you focus on the smells around you? They might be part of the performance, but your neighbours’ scent surely isn’t. What if that what you see doesn’t correspond with what you feel? Different images and associations can be triggered. We tend tot think that we shouldn’t focus on them, as our full attention should be with what is happening on stage. We worry about missing part of what is happening on stage, but these images and ideas are usually triggered by what you are experiencing inside the theatre. All your experiences are your own. What you hear, see, feel, taste or smell makes your experiences unique. I think that’s amazing! That we can all experience completely different things. I’m quite pleased about this, as well as curious, especially during Jonge Harten.
Enjoying experiences with all your senses makes theatre so much fun. And when you awaken your senses through theatre, then you can also decide which sense to use on different occasions outside the theatre too. You can switch on all your senses for one day or decide to focus on your smell and touch during another. Which sense do you want to rediscover first?
Keep your ears and eyes open, because this year Jonge Harten is all about using your senses. #THESENSORIAL is the theme of our programme’s performances, and they will all stimulate your senses in their own way.