Many of us would be aware of some of the atrocities of the holocaust.
Most of us have probably seen and read stories about the cruelty and misery in the concentration camps during WWII – many probably during a history lesson or a documentary on TV.
Or at least these are my experiences with this information.
It was undoubtedly a dark time in our history, but often blamed on the Nazis alone, with none of us taking responsibility as we ‘weren’t there’ or ‘were on the side of good’.
Kamp by Dutch troupe Hotel Modern provides a small audience (sold-out to 200 festival-lovers per night) with an additional insight into a sometimes confronting, other times desperate, yet somehow removed world of a concentration camp during the Nazi reign.
The Space is invaded by a broad, bleak landscape of miniature buildings, lamp posts, barbed wire and building sites split in two by an ominous railway line. The three puppeteers/performers (Martje Van Den Brink, Menno Broon and Trudi Klever) move through the tiny buildings manipulating miniature models of victims, guards and machinery like giants or gods.
Viewing the macro from the audience, the micro is brought into sharp focus with grainy, grey video projections sweeping across scenes or zooming in close to witness first-hand. The sound design and live Foley effects performed by Ruud Van Der Pluijm provide an eerie and again, miserable atmosphere in this world of despair.
There is no dialogue. There is no narrative as such. This is a performance piece that acts as a historical museum display. Each individual model of the holocaust victims are individually crumpled, each with a different expression in their apparent uniformity.
Seeing up close the horrific gas chambers, the packed train arriving and the sleeping quarters contrasted to the jovial booze up in the guards quarters often requires a reminder “this is not real” yet removes the audience simultaneously. There is little reality in the creation of these scenes and puppets – they are made from crude materials of corrugated cardboard, glue and drift wood. Yet the manipulation of each by the performers has a distinct life to it that can sometimes be disconcerting.
The production is interesting and fascinating, but it is the aftermath of viewing this show that really hits home. We as the audience are observers, and in an apparent mirroring of the world during WWII, we sit and observe, yet we do nothing. To make it worse, many got up (upon invitation by the performers in their institutional grey costumes) and had a good sticky-beak at the model, breaking the fourth wall and reminding us it isn’t real… it’s just a representation… of something that was very real to thousands upon thousands of victims.
It is this effect that is the significance of Kamp. It is not the actual imagery (we’ve all unfortunately seen and heard of blights on humanity such as this), it is the realisation that very little was done for so long and the power that Art (with a capital “A”) can have in our reflection on humanity and our created history. For this alone, Kamp is deserving of its sell-out audiences and a unique art form that has no comparison. It must be experienced and absorbed to portray its message.