The Collaborators

A strangely unusual atmosphere descends onto University College Maastricht, where the audience members are a fragmented mix of students, tutors and deans - but more strangely: parents and friends from 'outside the UCM bubble', giving the event a real sense of occasion. However, perhaps unfortunately for the actors, there is a hubbub of chatter - heavily laden with expectation. The waiting for the lights to dim, for the noise to unravel into quiet, and for the kind of concentration and silence in the building possibly not seen since it's days as a 15th century monastery.

I already have doubts about the UCM student's acting abilities - as a primarily academic and not a theatrical institution,  and, rather cynically, I expect a highly intellectual script full of philosophical, historical and political references and cleverly self-referential, self-agrandizing monologues.

But I could be proved wrong.

The play begins with fantastic use of music and a reference to the way in which Bulgakov is used like a 'puppet' of Stalin, and functions as a symbolic dream of Bulgakov's where he is chased by Stalin with a typewriter. Thus far: intellectual and conceptual? - Yes. Bad acting abilities? - Nope, not too bad at all actually. So far so good.

The first thing that strikes me is that the costume and props (apparently curtesy of student association 'Alles is Drama') are extremely stylish. Old telephones, vintage typewriters, coat racks dripping with trench and fur coats, pencil skirts, red lipstick, comb-overs and walking sticks. Would only be perfectly complete with the addition of cigarette smoke  - but of course,  health and safety, as always, must prevail.

The skillful use of overlap between the scenes of the play, and the scenes of the play within the play was impressive, and I was really bowled over with the audio/visual imput. Especially the integration of a video piece with echoes of lines from previous scenes.

The acting cast as a whole pleasantly surprised me, hidden talent in copious amounts. However a few actors stood out for me: one of which was a charismatic and convincing Marlien van Liempt , who was one of the strongest actors in my opinion - with a force and genuine presence of feeling that felt incredibly natural. Nils Reimer's perfect villian was executed with impeccable comic timing and struck the balance brilliantly between terrifying and hilarious. Sanneke Fidler was another skilled comic, and Lukas Bagin's silent stares said more than any other line uttered in the play.

In general, this production was a fantastic depiction of the corrupting nature of power, with some particularly UCM-trademark-intellectual input - however, this seemed to enhance rather than detract from the impact of the play.
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