Dutch Negotiations with Otherness in Times of Crisis

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The two productions discussed here were influenced by tragic events which changed and polarized Dutch society. Both stood in defence of tolerance and multiculturalism, denounced xenophobia and populism, and presented the Other in a sympathetic and understanding light. However, the change of approach was less profound than might have been expected. In Othello, although the Other was linked to radicalized Muslims, the connection was tenuous and the production focused more on a generalized outsider and a sense of isolation which embraced all the characters in the play. It hovered uneasily between the personal and political, while its reception focused mostly on the former, on the universal emotional appeal of love, jealousy and betrayal. The Arab of Amsterdam was more focused and direct in relating the Other to the specific Dutch context of discriminated Muslims. Although both productions were responses to the murder of van Gogh, with whom some of their members had had close personal and professional connections, they did so in ways that may not have pleased him. In conversation, van Oel agreed that van Gogh might have derided all this as ‘subsidized immigrant theatre’ (Oel 2020). The productions played ‘safe’ in criticizing Dutch populism and xenophobia, and in choosing the moral high ground of the tolerant ‘us’ versus the critics of multiculturalism. This approach inevitably left little room for self-scrutiny, the absence of which dogs the Dutch performance history of Othello and Merchant, by largely avoiding the exploration of sensitive issues. The Dutch have yet to come to terms with their colonial history, their complicity in the deportation of Jews, the tensions between Jews and Muslims in the Netherlands, and with pervasive institutional racism. But then again, perhaps that would have been too much in this tumultuous timeframe. After all, a society can only endure so much, or can it? And perhaps there are limits to what Shakespeare can possibly deliver.
Originele taal-2English
TitelShakespeare's Others in 21st-Century European Performance
RedacteurenBoika Sokolova, Janice Valls-Russell
Plaats van productieLondon
UitgeverijBloomsbury Academic
Aantal pagina's19
ISBN van elektronische versie9781350125971, 9781350125964
ISBN van geprinte versie9781350125957
StatusPublished - 2021

Publicatie series

NaamGlobal Shakespeare Inverted
UitgeverijBloomsbury Publishing

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