An evening oop north

Anne and I went to the Hague last night for the last instalment of the wedding we attended back in April – part of the celebration that had been scaled back due to the death of ex-Queen Juliana in March.

This was a dance perfomance by the Netherlands Dance Theatre, a world premiere (as we understood it) of two pieces choreographed by Jorma Elo and by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, and of a revision of an established Lightfoot/Leon piece. Neither Anne nor I know very much about modern dance: as long as it isn’t boring or silly, that’s fine, and if it’s entertaining so much the better. Our previous efforts to watch modern dance had not been successful, a very silly bloke we saw around 1991 in Belfast who mimed the letters of the alphabet to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and a dismally boring woman who performed a solo ballet routine in lieu of a sermon at a Methodist service we attended in Munich back in 1992.

Anne’s mother is staying so was able to babysit for us; I took the afternoon off work and we drove oop north, reaching the theatre in the Hague about seven o’clock. In contrast to the wedding ceremony, almost everyone there was from the Hague or at least from the Netherlands. There must have been getting on for a thousand, almost the same number that were at the church. We managed to shake hands and say hello to Mabel and Friso, and then I identified a Brussels friend who we chatted to until the show started.

As we wandered into the auditorium, I instinctively went for seats in the middle of a row a bit more than a third of the way up the hall. As we were getting comfortable I looked around behind us and realised that there was nobody sitting in the next row back, because there were little bits of paper stuck all over the seats. Yep, we had chosen the row right in front of the royals. In trooped the prime minister (limping, with a striking resemblance to Harry Potter) and various other dignitaries, followed by the happy couple and the other two princes with their wives; and finally by the queen, who took her seat right behind Anne.

But we were not enslaved by formality. As everyone was poised waiting for the cue to sit down, someone in the crowd started singing “Lang zal ze leven“, a children’s song which I had always thought was strictly the equivalent of “Happy Birthday” but I suppose it’s a general song of congratulations. The entire audience joined in, making the appropriate hand gestures towards Mabel and Friso on the last line – Hip hip hoera – including the queen. (Is this linked with Mabel’s recently announced pregnancy? I don’t know.)

So anyway, the program started with a slightly obscure piece by Jorma Elo called Plan To Adrawn onward, performed to the music of Christian Zeal and Activity by John Adams. Adams is also the author of the famous operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. This was my first encounter with his music and I have to say that together with the dance I felt it veered towards the silly.

The last piece, however, SH-BOOM, was great fun – never mind not being boring or silly, it was really entertaining. I realise now looking at the programme notes that it was Lightfoot and Leon’s first big hit, and thinking back I think I realise that a number of people in the audience had seen most of it before. But the two new bits were both based on old Stan Freberg songs, and were both (intentionally) very funny, a single dancer playing both roles in “John and Marsha”, and an acrobatic perfomance of “C’Est Si Bon” (you know, the song with the lead singer getting frustrated with his chorus because they won’t sing “C’est Bon” at the right moment). So the whole thing ended on a high note.

It then turned out that the bloke sitting next to me, a Dutch former World Bank official who has retired to live in Belgium, had been to the same school that I attended for a year in the Netherlands in 1979-80 (though 25 years earlier). We were both still able to remember the school song (Wij vormen tezaam de bemanning…) which is a bit embarrassing.

It was far too late to go back home last night, so we stayed in what looked like a very nice hotel in Delft – not that we really had time to appreciate it as I had to be back at work this morning. Not the kind of thing we go to every day. While it’s unlikely we will make a regular habit of attending royal events, maybe we can get to live theatre in future a bit more than we have done over the last few years.

One thought on “An evening oop north

  1. Regarding the absence of writers from the Republic, were there any successful native Science Fiction or Fantasy authors back in the day? For me, growing up with the likes of James and Bob as compatriots, I always found it strange that there were no comparable writers from the Republic.

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