Two fortysomethings trying to achieve happiness?

Tg STAN and NTGent’s Decemberhonger is a hit!

Watching Decemberhonger feels like sipping a glass of champagne: it’s sophisticated and light, it tastes good and it makes you smile. Only the grumpiest of theatregoers will regret buying a ticket for the new play (performance in Dutch) by tg STAN and NTGent which premiered in Ghent. It’s a smart and funny one, written by Dutch novelist/playwright Oscar van den Boogaard as a sequel to Lucia Smelt , which was also played by Sara De Roo and Steven Van Watermeulen, ten years ago. Two fortysomethings in a relationship, trying to achieve happiness by allowing each other to do whatever they want to. But then a beautiful, bright young actress arrives.

‘This is not a marriage, but a failed divorce.’  These sort of witty Oscar Wilde-like lines, recited rather casually. Decemberhonger - the title is taken from a quote from “Titan” (1800-1803) by German writer Jean Paul - has plenty of them. And Sara De Roo and Steven Van Watermeulen are visibly having fun throwing them around, however bitter and vexing they may sound. It’s a sheer joy to see them play, with that style that is so unmistakably linked to their generation of Belgian actors: they do play their part but at the same time they keep some distance from it. Maya Sannen, the youngster on stage, keeps up with them admirably.

Their style of acting is mirrored perfectly by that almost abstract decor, by Belgian architects B-architecten. In the beginning the actors are walking on cardboard boxes, on a floor that resembles a wide catwalk, with the members of the audience sitting on both sides of it, facing each other. Later on the actors take those boxes away and hidden underneath are giant, flat black-and-white ’cut outs’ of furniture. Pieces of wood they walk around with, stack, or use as a weapon when they are verbally assaulting each other.

I could tell you more about the story, but that would spoil the fun. Sometimes there’s not much to say about a play, but just this, when everything feels right: it’s a hit. It’s an absolute joy to witness these actors having fun with their lines, each other and that decor. At the premiere they even managed to get away with collectively not remembering their lines, for instance. Don’t expect a play that will get under your skin, but you’ll have a great evening. And you’ll feel slightly tipsy afterwards., Hans-Maarten Post, 8 February 2011