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Kicking off with an intense poetry reading over even louder guitar music, They Are Just Kids (written by Roeland Hofman) promises to be an evening filled with the kind of debauchery you’d expect from a story set in 1960s New York and proceeds to be a fragmented display of just that. Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen and Judith van den Berg both play Patti Smith as she moves to the big city, poor and hapless but happy to be free, and meets Robert Mapplethorpe (Ludwig Bindervoet). The two are soulmates and become entangled artistically and romantically, but somehow the show never wholly convinces us of either despite adequate performances from the three actors (Van de Sande Bakhuyzen shifts between roles).
The scope is enormous. We’re taken through entire decades, with little indication of how pivotal events are selected. Multiple times during the show it feels as if the end of an arc has been reached, only to continue in pretty much the same vein. Not just Smith’s, but also Mapplethorpe’s life is discussed at length, and as the scenes follow one another the link between the two iconic artists moves to the background even though that supposedly is the central theme. Towards the end the AIDS crisis makes an appearance as yet another chapter – it’s several shows crammed into one.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its moments: the live music is performed with vigor, some of the dialogue hits home, such as when Mapplethorpe tells Smith he is gay. But it should have been a lot more coherent. The lack of strictness makes the story meander too much into details that no longer support substance. At times the descriptions of wild times in lofts and doing drugs feel cliched. And the writing is greedy, mentioning nearly every big name from Ginsberg to Warhol and back to Lou Reed, not always with good reason. Overly long at two hours and a bit, They Are Just Kids prompts the question why it had to be done now; it lacks a sense of urgency, otherwise common in Marcus Azzini’s work as Oostpool’s artistic director.
They Are Just Kids
Imagery by Sanne Peper.
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