This is not a love song: seven youngsters give you the finger (‘Radical wrong’, Wim Vandekeybus)

All of a sudden they storm onto the stage. In what resembles a guerrilla attack, they kidnap a member of the audience, drag him on stage and then they rapidly disappear again, leaving that bewildered person alone on that big empty stage. Let there be no misunderstanding: nothing or nobody is safe, during Radical wrong, the new performance by Wim Vandekeybus. Seven youngsters with too much energy, dance, run and shout about.

Think Beastie Boys. Think Sabotage. That’s the energy level I’m talking about. Anyone who’s ever seen a Wim Vandekeybus performance knows that the Belgian choreographer is able to stir up his performers and his audience. This time around he opted solely for younger people to work with. Seven tents make that stage look like a small camping ground for a rock festival. Apart from the seven performers there’s one guy other walking around, silently moving pieces of the decor and adjusting the spots.

Wim Vandekeybus has abandoned them. That’s what those young performers tell us at the beginning of Radical wrong. Thereby stressing the fact that this is their performance, not his nor anyone else’s. It’s about them and what they feel and want to say. Not true, of course. Because throughout Radical wrong you sense the mind of Wim Vandekeybus. But Radical wrong is indeed first and foremost a display of the boisterous, radical energy of teenagers. Of people wanting everything, but not exactly knowing how to get it. They don’t particularly show you their soft side. This is a performance that feels as if those young people give you the finger, all the time.

Automatically I started comparing. To Ontroerend Goed’s Teenage riot (review here). And by doing that I realized as well what I had been feeling all along: unfortunately Radical wrong doesn’t show you much more than this teenage angst and energy. Teenage riot had a poetic side to it, as well. It even succeeded in making you feel rather uncomfortable. Radical wrong, in all its attempts to shock you (a girl with a strap-on gun/dildo, dancing with guys), doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. You just feel a strong  ‘fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ attitude throughout the performance.

There’s just one poetic sequence, amidst this long chain of diverse and energetic scenes, when the performers dance to Nina Simone’s slow rendering of Black is the colour of my true love’s hair. At that moment you feel that Radical wrong would have benefited from more of these moments. It would have made this a more layered and therefore more powerful affair. But apart from this: I had to admit that I liked Radical wrong because for once, by having to stick to this teenage universe, Vandekeybus did not get lost in vague thoughts about birth, mortality and other big themes. And you just have to applaud this bunch of talented performers brimming with energy.


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