Small Scale - Great Theatre

Review of "Sand Between Your Toes" in Dag og Tid, Oslo, 23.11.2002

I came upon this year’s greatest theatrical experience in a cabinet. The cabinet contains the life of Hetty and her family. Its life and death, because the family is Jewish.

Hetty was born right after the gunshot in Sarajewo and she died just before 11 September 2001.
Her story is being told by two performers, Bjørn Myrholdt and Jaap den Hertog, acting together in and around Hetty’s curiosity cabinet: a joyously fanciful cabinet full of inventions, puppets, trinkets and a furnace to burn Jews in.

Conjuring reality
Theatre is illusion. Here, the actors continuously shatter the illusion by directly addressing the audience and conveying that this is not real; it is just a story. And then the strange thing happens, that the destruction of this illusion only makes the illusion stronger, because we know that even if the piece of theatre is not reality, its story is.
Each person you meet may be a family member or a friend. That was the philosophy that Hetty made her own after having lost her family in the Nazi gas chambers. In our meeting with the incomprehensible we understand that the largest questions can have the smallest answers. One Nazism, six million Jews. What makes life worth living? Sand between your toes does.
Hetty was newlywed when the Nazis arrived. After the war she raised a new family together with another survivor, a man who escaped by jumping off the train to the gas chambers. He also took care of his sister's child, who she threw over to him from the train. The sister herself dared not jump.

Only a Jew
Jaap den Hertog has taken this story from his own family in the Netherlands. Jaap, a Jew himself, travelled in his time to Lebanon as medical doctor for the Norwegian Palestine-committee.
I think of that, as I sit in the Jewish Museum in Trondheim and watch the performance together with young and old members of the Jewish Community. They applaud for a long time, they smile and they dry their tears.
There is a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps amongst the spectators. Afterwards I feel a strong urge to embrace him, but don’t do it, maybe because we people from Nord-Møre County are not in the habit of doing such things.
I don’t know. But I know I have experienced a theatre that affects the theatre of life. Imagine that.

Loose precision
«Sand between your toes» is for everyone from 10 years and up. The piece is produced at the Puppetry Theatre in Nordland. The script is written by Jaap den Hertog and Lasse Åkerlund. The latter is also the production’s stage-director, while the former has made the puppets. The set design and props are by Gunnar Fretheim, Inka-Lill made the illustrations, Solveig Fugelsøy has made the costumes, Martin Waagø has done the carpentry and Jan Erik Skarby is responsible for the lighting and the technical aspect. The result could make Nils Arne Eggen [the nationally renowned former coach Rosenborg Soccer Club, trans.] express something about cooperation.
Bjørn Myrholdt is excellent in all his changing roles; rationally aggressive in an SS-uniform, childishly splashing about in a bathing suit. Jaap den Hertog keeps the strings tightly organized, literally as well as metaphorically speaking, and drives the story onward. They both have close encounters of the third degree with the audience. This demands an interaction that is both tight and loose at the same time: precise, but not stiff. Their way of solving this reveals many years of experience with bow and arrow.
Teater Fusentast is based in Trondheim, but travels the whole country (and abroad) with their theatrical performances. They play at theatres and schools and community centres and wherever, always with a burning engagement. Earlier this year Fusentast had their opening night of «Mirad - a boy from Bosnia», about how a 13-year-old experiences war at home and asylum in a foreign country.