‘We strongly believe in the power of theatre’
By Henri Walterbos
LICHTENVOORDE – The two of them form the theater duo Noggus, once a result of the theater company Tejatertick Winterswijk, of which both were members. Anne-Marie Wassink and Mariëtte Wesselink from Lichtenvoorde. For years, the duo toured schools and libraries with performances aimed at children. At some point, however, they felt too old to put themselves in the shoes of a child, and after a break from thinking about a reboot, a new course was set. The duo admit that letting go of the children’s roles and playing for them was quite a struggle for them to break free. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie and Mariëtte have found their niche in devising, writing and performing works with social themes for adults.
About Noggu’s origin. “I wanted to make something for children,” begins Anne-Marie. “Back then there was no amateur theater for children. We then created our own theater group under the name Noggus, which means ‘again’ in the dialect. Then we started creating and performing accessible works for preschool children and primary school students who did not come into contact with the theater because the parents, for example, did not have the money to take their child to the theater. We wanted to do this in an accessible way, so that all children could become familiar with theatre. Here the approach was that above all it should be fun, that children could enjoy it and that it was free for them. In the beginning, we did it primarily in groups. After some turnover, Mariëtte and I continued on our own about 15 years ago. As a duo, we focused a lot on toddlers. We played a lot in schools and libraries. What we mainly did was turn picture books into a play that brought the books to life. In such a way that children could identify with characters. There are themes in each picture book. Friendship, overcoming fear, different kinds of emotions and then doing it in preschool language. And the longer we played, the more we started to play minimalistic. The art of omission. We always stuck to the play, played the characters from the picture book, but sometimes there was a reaction when a child said something. Playing for children is always interactive in one way or another.”
“We’ve been doing it for years with new pieces all the time,” Mariëtte looks back. “We came up with everything. What we always did was to tell before the performance that what we were going to perform is not ‘real’, that it is the whole scene. For example, when something gets scary, that at that moment is not real, but the whole stage. Also as a princess for example. Then we take off the wig afterwards to show that the scene was not real. We also always introduced it as ourselves, not as the character. Gradually we came to this idea.” “We both have experience from our work. I work in youth care and Mariëtte is a social worker,” continues Anne-Marie. “It also had to be very safe for children. What I really like is that with children you don’t need so much about it, such as decor or music. Children are very quickly caught up in the play. It is a very intimate form of theatre.”
The duo also played pieces for older children for groups 8 and 1st grades. For example, about bullying. Anne Marie; “We have also been asked by a library to play certain characters for parents during the break of a reading competition. It went very well, so we started doing it more often, playing pieces for adults. For example, we have slowly but surely started making theater with social themes for adults. For example, we did a piece about ethical behavior in a hospital, about whether to continue treating a sick mother; ‘Continue treatment or let it die?’ This was at the request of a hospital, as the start of an information evening/study evening. We also did a piece on the consequences of child abuse in adulthood. Also from a question. We strongly believe in the power of theatre.”
Make it a negotiation
After letting go of playing children’s plays, the corona came and the ladies took time to think about what they still wanted to do. Mariëtte: “We have started to take it up again, we have taken the theme of ‘poverty’ to get started. Very topical. We are in the process of writing a piece that provides tools to discuss this theme; invisible poverty behind the front door, e.g. How do you live in front of the front door and how do you live behind it?” The duo started talks with the municipality to see if they could do something for each other. “It was a good conversation,” recalls Anne-Marie. “October 17 is the day of poverty. Throughout the week, the focus is on the theme. We are looking at whether we can do something together in the form of information. Our experience is that if you start an information evening with a piece on the topic to be discussed, it is immediately received. Half an hour at most. It makes it easier for you to talk to each other. It’s nice to see what’s to come. People are encouraged to think about it. There is always a bit of lightness in it. It can also be tailored for agencies. We have already done a piece on dementia for De Zonnebloem. We adapt it to the target group we play for.”