Purveyors to the Court of Modern Variety
© L. van Velzen
Oudejans, now declared cured, continued performing Charlatans until 2012.
In the meantime, other makers of music and theatre have discovered the extra dimensions yielded by collaborating with the Ashton Brothers. After a previous collective performance with the Dutch Wind Ensemble in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009), during the 2011-12 season, the Ashtons appeared as guest performers in Tales of 1001 Nights by Het Zuidelijk Toneel, a major theatre company from the south of the Netherlands. With their musical talent, their daredevil feats and perfect sense of timing, they gave the performance the dynamism it occasionally lacked at other moments.
Since December 2012 they have been performing their tenth anniversary show, Treasures, a treasure trove of previously performed acts, now perfected even more, plus new material, all in a fantastic set with inventive use of perspective tricks. Van Vemde Oudejans says of the older numbers: ‘You can perform them twenty times and yet still change them every time, though of course only the details. They can be polished like a diamond. There is always a facet that can be made sharper, flatter or shinier.’
Treasures will be touring at least until the end of April 2014. It once again comprises the typically masculine, morbid and above all magical elements we are used to from this foursome. Unfortunately it is impossible to describe exactly what one experiences and enjoys in just a few sentences. Is it possible for anyone who has never seen the Ashtons to imagine, for example, a goat singing Ave Maria and then, after being fatally shot, taking a hilarious minute to die? Or the vain attempts by the actor Pepijn Gunneweg to reanimate a goldfish? Or two half-naked men playing rival penises?
But there are also a great many subtle and delicate moments. Though perhaps slightly too few to help determine the rhythm of the performance. In general the scale is grand, but there are also the minor grievances, and there are brilliant musical episodes when the laughter fades to make way for silent emotion. The actors' teamwork sometimes takes the spectator's breath away and audiences are full of wonder for their physical and mimetic skills.
It is no surprise that the quartet's antics rejoice in constant attention and that others try to take advantage of this too. Not only the Dutch Wind Ensemble and Het Zuidelijk Toneel, but for example the organisation that was responsible for the festive opening of the transformed Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on 13 April 2013, too. Once again the Ashtons performed there in the presence of royals. It is an agreeable notion that even the most elevated circles have the opportunity to wonder at these Purveyors to the court of modern variety.
Translated by Gregory Ball