While the Julidans audience is gathered outside the Melkweg theatre, the wait for Oona Doherty’s appearance becomes a performance in itself. People are laughing and staring; cars and pedestrians are passing by, and all of it seems to contribute to the landscape.
Soon enough, a car blasting loud music stops in front of the crowd, officially kickstarting Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus. The driver, a handsome, tattooed and bearded figure, gets out of the vehicle with a defying attitude to open the trunk and let Oona fall out. Guided by her energetic voice and physicality, the audience is directed towards the theatre, accompanied by a tasteful 1990s pop soundtrack along the way.
Repeating words over and over again, she schizophrenically switches from one persona to the next. From voice to body, she physically mutates with great precision into various types of precarious characters. In her representation of masculinity, Doherty highlights the male struggle with violence and vulnerability.
In the swirl of pop and cinematographic references, the audience thus witnesses a range of marginalised figures; people we have all encountered at least once in our lives. Confronted with our own classicist bias, we feel empathetic discomfort and hear ourselves laughing guiltily during these 40 minutes of moving social commentary.
If it wasn’t for Doherty’s particularly fantastic presence and her personal history with the topic, this piece could easily fall into the representative discourse of “trash culture” being glorified by the upper middle classes. A phenomenon quite on trend in many other fields, such as fashion or club culture. Staging “underprivilege” is an obviously problematic product.
Without doubting Doherty’s intelligence or commitment to her subject and work, Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus carries a message that should indeed be spread, but that may soon exceed its form and is at risk of becoming contradictory or even hypocritical.