Quiet and precise, Koba Ryckewaert marks the floor with sentences, as large articulated blackboards like a profilerating void are folded out by her partner Zach Hatch to cover a vast expanse of stage. In this oblique coming of age piece, the darkness of being thrown into a world too vast, too obscurely conjoined for the newspapers we throw over it like a shivering sleeping body to ever convey; combined with the actual wonderment and dread of being alive – right now – is lit only by the act of naming the darkness with careful chalk.All That Is Wrong is the very process of making sense, and as these words and small connective lines become a graphomanic collection of ideas and identifications we get the burgeoning sense of a life becoming a project, the very synapses of an interest in “what’s out there”, as a self and political consciousness begins to grow in this vast mind-map.
A mind-map is an undignified thing at the best of times, forever associated with coloured pencils and the rote rituals of exams. Here Ontroerend Goed throw out the practices of institutional learning, without the interlocutor of a tutor their boards are used for an alternative, pristine and punx as fuck, system of knowledge marked in dark hues. Indeed it reminiscent of nothing so much as an occupied university, spun off into some cell-like ascetic think-tank. This isn’t a lecture, it doesn’t have a message: and it yet it looks very like the networked future of political theatre: cool, determined and inside the nerve centre of political thought. It’s dramatised democracy, and if, like me, you ever wondered how the hip interested kids have it all together – it goes something like this.
A soundtrack of drone and samples of men of power and money, give a dark urgency to their purpose. Ryckewaert begins in the middle with a small autonomous “i” and lines spring out to “BELGIAN” — “18″ — “DEPENDENT” — “SISTER” — “AWESOME”. These take on pace as the identifications spread out from family and common sense, to massive headings “POWER”, “FEAR” and “WAR”. Small pieces of narrative emerge as “Single” is apended to “Mum”, “concern for money” to “crisis”, “Spain”, “Greece”, which forms its own tagcloud of finance capitalism; or when “FEAR” and “SEX” are associated. The sense of a person here is beautifully sifted-in, even as, in frenzy, chalk lines make arcing board-wide connections; and big links are on the edge of paranoia as they score the void. Indeed, when Hatch throws up the suggestion of Fox and CNN the notion that, despite the difference in form, this is the anti-Glenn Beck playing with portent and drama becomes inescapable.
Ryckewaert’s figure is lithe and wiry as she writes the word “THIN”, which is later changed to “SKINNY” which then becomes a collection of beauty industry terms. And yet hers feels like a revolutionary body, in motion, an object of meaning and not display, hurtling through a journey. Yes the relationships are simplified, everything is afterall a heading (we open on a slideshow of witty protest slogans which is a clue as to the kind of form of the language) and yet this is really a demonstration of process, not the artistic process which is hidden, but the artful representation of political process – this movement from simple identifications to wider ones, the demonstration of the acquisition of a political subjectivity, tied to this eloquent testament of growing up – which is boiled down to its starkest and truest.
But not content to throw up a poignant challenge to the simple ways in which we see ourselves, Ontroerend Goed then wonder what it might take to make a change to this mapped world. As the entire floor shifts upward and cacophonous clanging of metal letterpress fall to the ground, we get a sense of possible societal movement. That this system is tarnished, while at the same being apprehended as an object so large that our routes-in feel hopeless. Suddenly the distance between doing and representing, between action and theory seems vast. Until finally the words, the very substratum of the piece, are, just maybe, enough. It is no good to conceive of ourselves outside of this system, they suggest; we must recognise ourselves as its inextricable authors and hopeful eliders.
The Traverse studio serves the piece well, just as the theatre’s continuing programming of this Belgian powerhouse serves the festival well. And it’s a testament to the richness of the festival, that something so simple, deceptively slight, yet so far-reaching could land here amongst the posters and cows, bunting and branding – if Edfringe feels at times like a Neo-Liberal campus, it’s truly energising to find something so wired into post-Occupy and the politics of now. Without the clever participatory in-yer-face which characterises much of Ontroerend Goed’s work, and their previous Edinburgh outing, All That Is Wrongdeals in big ideas with grace and minimal fuss. “I want to stop trying to be perfect” Ryckewaert writes in a tender email read out by Hatch, which finds oblique echo with this rendition of the unsureness, hopes and progress of the changemakers of tomorrow.