What does going mad look like? Watching Resident, the new choreography by Dunja Jocic, winner of the Prijs van de Nederlandse Dansdagen Maastricht 2018, you might get an idea. Resident premiered on October 5, during the Dutch Dance Festival (Nederlandse Dansdagen), at Toneelacademie, Maastricht.
A man (Simon Bus) has just moved into a modern apartment complex, where he never has to venture outside. His dinner table is always packed with food. He doesn’t even order parcels – they get misplaced anyway. So nothing ever comes in, nobody ever goes out. He can just observe the world outside passing him by from the safety of within.
Very quickly, a psychological horror story unfolds, like the ones Roman Polanski used to make in his early days. The man starts puzzling over questions he can’t answer. Why is the table always stacked – only with apples – while the man is unable to open his own fridge? His voice-over becomes more and more disconcerting. ‘Why are we going transparent?’ ‘I know what happened with the parcels’ (which, eerily enough, sounds even more chilling than his ‘I know what happened with the children’).
The monologue, written by Barbi Marković (who also wrote the text for Jocic’s previous work, The Protagonist), works like a short story all on its own. The phrase ‘The sky is blue, all armpits are dry’ is an instant classic. But everything really comes together with the intense performance delivered by Simon Bus (Jocic herself also performs, slithering into the space like an alien insect, lying in wait underneath a bench, waiting to take the resident’s place). Even before the voice-over starts, at the very beginning, just by standing still, we know something is off about this resident. He is cowering in the corner, with his back turned towards the audience, listening to the dogs barking, and the children playing outside (who haven’t disappeared yet).
His first movements start innocuously enough. He is fencing on his own, fending off flies we cannot see, although we do hear them. He is fixedly staring at his own shadow. And then slowly but surely, he starts to mentally and physically unravel, obsessively scratching his skin, compulsively fingering the teeth in his mouth. He starts losing sense of time, and of himself. He lays down onto the bench, as if he would like to melt into it. In the end, he ends up prostrate on the floor, only able to propel himself forward by making weird motions with his shoulders (not that much unlike the way Jocic moved, at the start). There is nowhere left to go, but still he goes on, until the inevitable end. And we? We follow him, slithering down into oblivion.
Seen: October 5, Toneelacademie, Maastricht
Choreography: Dunja Jocic - performance: Simon Bus, Dunja Jocic - text: Barbi Marković - dramaturgy and set design: Marinus Groothof - musical composition: Renger Koning.
Producers: Korzo Theater Den Haag, Bird Productions & Nederlandse Dansdagen.