Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

Simon van der Geest (The Netherlands)

Somebody’s move, Nobody’s move

Lemand issum, Niemand issum

Text Extract

The punishment

Everybody says all sorts of things
One says this, and the other that
A story is like a fish
It shoots from the one to the other and the next
And if there is some one with a better story
With sharper teeth
With wide jaws
The first fish is swallowed just like that
The new story, the bigger, fatter story goes on
Swims from ear to ear
till, bite, bite
another stronger story
and then bite, bite
and a bite still bigger
and a bite still stronger
still fatter

I can tell where it began
The first fish
I should know, I was very close

All:Ray must climb the roof
Ray must climb the roof
Ray must climb the roof
Ray must climb the roof

Iris: Angry, that’s we all were
with other, with the teacher, with the world and especially with Ray.
Ray had to climb the roof, why not another punishment
Ray had to climb the roof

Menk: Stand here
Rope round his chest
Willy, you hold the rope

Willy: Why me

Menk: He is your friend

Willy: So?

Hanna: It is a punishment
Shouldn’t he climb without a rope
Just bare hands.

Menk: Eh?

Willy: Hanna?

Iris: Can’t be done. That last part, that ridge, you have to turn up side down. Without a rope it can’t be done. Nobody can do that. Or you’d have to be able to fly.

Menk: Hanna isn’t talking nonsense
It should be a punishment

Willy: Give me that rope. I’ll hold the rope

Menk: Oh, really?

Willy: You dare, you dare and I…..

Menk: You what?

Iris: Look, a falcon

Willy: I am the rope man

Willy ties the rope round Ray’s chest and below his arms.
He doesn’t say anything
Knot. Tight. A bit too tight
The other end we tie round a heavy branch. We throw it round the railing, above the edge of the roof. That’s hard. We take turns. I don’t throw high enough. Hanna only throws into the air. Menk can do it. Menk is a cowboy. The branch glides down.
Without saying anything Willy picks up the branch. Walks backwards so the rope is tight. He pulls a little. Ray’s arms tremble, like a puppet.

Menk: What are you waiting for?

Iris: Up

Willy: What are you looking at? Climb!

Hanna: Go


Ray is coming back to school. The teacher said so.
Four children in the schoolyard- Willy, Menk, Iris and Hanna- are awaiting his arrival, nervous and worked up. He’ll be in a wheelchair. Who is to blame?
In a reconstruction the four children go back in time. They take turns playing the absent Ray. Ray is stubborn, he looks for caterpillars in the bushes, stands up for fall guys and dares to oppose Menk (the king of the schoolyard). Even though he doesn’t belong to any group, everybody respects him. Iris is Menk’s right hand, she is stirring up trouble and waiting for something sensational to happen. Her friend Hanna doesn’t respond to Willy’s clumsy overtures, she is more occupied with the ever elusive Ray.
In a series of short scenes with dialogues, stories, songs and seemingly innocent schoolyard games like : skipping and “Ferryman, can you take us across?” the relationships slowly become clear, who stands up for others, who bullies, who has butterflies in their stomachs and who is a bystander?
The boys fight for their rank in the hierarchy, they score points off each other or look for protection. The girls join in with the boys, giggling and whispering. They are sly and eventually come up with the most dangerous plans. The children’s social backgrounds also play a role. The father of one of them is a doctor, another child has an alcoholic mother and one has a father at sea.
Meanwhile some events from post war history make an appearance. Willy’s uncle betrayed Jews during the war and is despised by the villagers. The dikes in Zeeland burst and everybody has to hand in toys for the victims. The sixties present themselves with their music and the “American kiss”. Jet planes fly across the schoolyard to end the Moluccan train hijack. Against the background of these events, tension rises among the children in the schoolyard. Betrayal between friends, the struggle for power, badgering, being ignored, unrequited love and pent up frustrations finally have a fatal outcome.
On Ray’s initiative the children plaster the van that belongs to Willy’s collaborator uncle. Consequently the teacher puts pressure on the class by cancelling the school trip as long as the perpetrators refuse to give themselves up. Ray confesses and betrays his fellow perpetrators. They are furious and come up with a punishment: Ray must climb the roof along the rain pipe. When that turns out a little too easy, somebody suggests a more severe punishment: he must jump across the gap between the two school buildings. “Across the gap” the children chant, “Ray must pay”. Little can go wrong, as Willy is supposed to hold the rope that secures Ray. And Willy is Ray’s friend. But Willy is also in love….
In the heat of the game, during the compelling developments in the schoolyard hours fly. Or maybe years. And sometimes time seems to stand still.

In this schoolyard there is no time
In this schoolyard there is all the time in the world
Outside the gate the time moves forward, tick-tock
Hour after hour
Day after day
Month after month
But here
Time plays with us


© Theater De Citadel


1st Opening Theater De Citadel, Groningen (NL) November 6, 2010

M: 2
F: 2