The School for Scandal in Amsterdam

When I would tell friends/colleagues/acquaintances about my impending move to Amsterdam, their reaction would often invlove the following:

  1. A significant wink followed by
  2. The words Oh Ammmmsteerrrdammmm… spoken in a conspiratorial tone

The HangoverThe Hangover

The cliché is that people come here to either get sloshed somewhere in the Red Light District or to smoke pot at the coffee shops’. A city is what you make it to be and you can have a perfectly jolly time without doing things people typically associate with Amsterdam.

Western Classical music is a language of its own, and given my fondness for it, every performance at Concertgebouw here is one I could potentially attend. My wife loves drama but there the language comes in the way. She hadn’t watched a single play since coming here. When she found out about an upcoming performance of Sheridan’s The School for Scandal - a play she had read in college - she promptly brought the tickets.

There was a little confusion about the start time of the play - the tickets mentioned 7:30 PM, the posters 8:30 PM. We erred on the side of caution only to find ourselves at a pre-play briefing (the play was part of the larger Holland Festival) which a lot of officious looking people sat listening to patiently. The proceedings thus far were in Dutch and the only thing we caught was the name of the director Deborah Warner mentioned multiple times. We went around the theatre admiring the portraits of important personages from the 18th and the 19th century that decorated the walls. The wife at this point was beginning to panic - did she pick the tickets for a dubbed” version of the play? I joked that perhaps they play was still in English but surely they would have sub-titles in Dutch.

Before the play began, the members of the cast walked on stage holding placards that described their characters - first in English, then in Dutch. And before we could be mistaken that the placard business would go on throughout the play, we noticed strategically installed green LED displays all around the hall - every dialogue said on stage, was indeed sub-titled in Dutch! My joke wasn’t a joke at all!

The performance at the stately Stadsschouwburg was a fairly modern interpretation of the work but they kept enough of the period costumes around to leave the period feel intact. The evening has been carefully put away in the piggy bank of memorable evenings in Amsterdam

P.S. Diverse pieces of music played in the background during the cast’s placard introduction. The last piece before the play began was Rahman’s Jai Ho. Hearing it in that setting was spooky.

July 3, 2011