Funny Soft Happy & the Opposite

When it comes to polished aesthetics and witty vibes, Connor Schumacher never disappoints. Funny Soft Happy & the Opposite, which premiered at Theater Rotterdam on Friday, 20 September, is something between a live tutorial and a TV show, an acid trip, a talent show, a self-help ad, and a cult with hidden rules.

Connor hosts with his usual eloquence, inviting the audience to train on how to become a professional human being. This promising proposal seems to contain all we need for an interesting ride: an American host, a plethora of peculiar performers, saturated colors, eighties looks and a whole lot of stamina. High in energy and in relatable references, going from jazzy to electronic tunes and even passing through the Macarena, the piece leads the audience into a bizarre training.

The Master of Ceremonies presents himself as ‘The Fool’, alluding to Schumacher’s previous piece with the same name. It is a continuation of his work as The Fool, which started as a solo piece a few years ago and later evolved into a performative character existing and interacting with different spaces. The fool has become known for iterating the perspectives that ‘Straightness is a concept’ and ‘Everything opens and everything closes’. In this piece, these statements are presented too, embodied by the attractive cast of movers.

But Connor is no Fool. With his crew, he nonchalantly surfs the waves of existentialist inquietudes that have become trending in these late-capitalist times. Oscillating between what matters and what doesn’t, their awkward on-stage party is extremely inviting and generous. Whether you are on board with diving into the vastness of the hinted reflections, or you are just in to sit back and be amused, Funny Soft Happy & the Opposite is a layered playground with potential. 

With its slightly predictable, politically correct cast, the work demanded from the audience is pre-masticated. Despite its efforts to touch upon necessary conversations such as the politics of care or the toxic speed of contemporary life, the evening ends up falling more into the entertainment category. This ‘high intensity metaphor’, as Connor himself calls it, flirts with clever thoughts and deft compositions without going too much into depth.

Using Bob Fosse’s jazz hands to attempt touching on human urgencies seem like a good recipe to make discursive art accessible. Yet, the message(s) don’t quite land, not for lack of taste or intelligence, but perhaps for being slightly crowd pleasing and remaining on the surface. It was Funny, it was Soft and Happy, but the Opposite was left to be guessed in the smoke and mirrors.

Photo: Noortje Stortelder 

Concept and choreography: Connor Schumacher - created and danced by: Mohamed Boujarra, Sandy Ceesay, Courtney May Robertson, Karlijn Roest (cover), Majon van der Schot, Paolo Yao, Jiaman Zhang - dramaturgy: Maaike Schuurmans - lighting design: Edwin van Steenbergen - costume design: Noor Mulders (Dragadina) - music: Animal Collective, Lex Baxter, Chassol, Doon Kanda, Fever Ray, LAMAt Records, Evelyn Ida Morris, Nice as Fuck, Paramore, Raymond Scott, SOPHIE, Susanne Sundfør, Paula Temple, The Acid, The Books, Tina Turner, Tzuing.