Reviews 'Driven' 2008
MARY BRENNAN (The Herald) 22 aug ****
Blame it not on the bossa nova, but on my handwriting: I misread my notes and
thought that Neel de Jong had left town when actually she'd shifted venue
mid-stint to 10am at Bedlam. Sometimes it feels as if de Jong arrived in this
world with not enough skin covering her nerve ends.
She reacts, like a living litmus, to her surroundings - to whatever events
or people she encounters at any given time - and Driven epotimises that random
spontaneity. Her opening lullaby-lament - accompanied by pianist Augusto
Pirodda - traces the effect urban decay has on her moods: not just buildings,
but humankind and passers-by appear grey, ugly, hostile, derelict. It depresses
her, then angers her. And then she dances. Always she looks like an overgrown
urchin - and indeed always she retains a child-like capacity for wonderment.
Her body language eases. Her smile returns, beatific. She thanks us. Our being
there has restored her optimism. Her constant battle to overcome disenchantment
and her willingness to risk audience rejection by being open and vulnerable is
like a blessing to the day.
LAURA PEEBLES (the Three Weeks) 17 aug. *****
As you go in, the small theatre is completely dark, apart from a few dimmed
spotlights. On stage, sitting in the middle of her bin bags, is a crazy old bag
lady chanting and swaying. After a few minutes, the mumbled chanting suddenly,
becomes audible, with words and sentences thrown in there too. The seemingly
crazy ramblings start to become meaningful, poignant and truthful. She then
works herself into a frenzied dance, accompanied only by the haunting tune
of a piano. Neel de Jong transports us to a beautifully different world in this
short performance; magical and profound, 'Driven' will leave you with a sense
of wondrous calm. It is like nothing you will have seen before.
ARTSPY UK 18 aug. *****
This is a magical show, inspiring, uplifting and deeply thought provoking. De Jong
explores the dark side of womanhood in an idiosyncratic fusion of dance and poetry.
Beginning as a bag-lady lost in her own world, she gradually involves the audience
using expressionistic gesture and utterance. This seamlessly moves on to poetry and
song drawing the audience into her own world. Augusto Pirroda improvising on piano
has a spare score which surfaces late in the performance but his swaying presence
just off stage in shadow adds to the intensity of the performance. This is performance
theatre at its best, I was left speechless and drained.
TINA JACKSON (Metro) 17 aug. ****
Neel De Jong's short solo piece is a life-affirming way to start the day.
The Dutch physical theatre and live art performer puts on a show about
overcoming the limitations of age and fear that is spirited, generous and
She's a defiant oddball, deliberately outlandish, as she sits in silence,
slumped on the stage in her striped tights and woolly hat in front of a mirror,
chuntering wordlessly. But as the piece gathers pace, De Jong gets up and,
accompanied on the piano by Augusto Pirodda, begins to move in a dance
that is initially tentative and graceful but increasingly becomes so frantic it seems
she is trying to exorcise something from within herself.
De Jong's artistry is stunning: age and oddity fall away so that all you see is
the beautiful physicality of her movement. Even more impressive is her humanity
and the way she uses her body to communicate how the spirit can triumph over
age and loneliness.
At the end, she moves into the audience, touching them gently on their
shoulders and whispering to them. 'Sometimes I like people,' she told me
quietly, as if she was confiding a secret. 'Sometimes,' I heard her tell my
neighbour, 'I think life is beautiful.' This lovely piece helps make it so.
Until Aug 23, Bedlam Theatre (V49), 10am. www.bedlamfringe.co.uk
JACKIE FLETCHER (British Theatre Guide) 8 aug. ****
In layers of brightly-coloured gauze petticoats, stripy stockings and lace-up
boots, Neel de Jong sends us mixed and disturbing signals about the complexity
of womanhood. A child in the body of a middle-aged woman; a flamboyantly
sexual body that is turning to wrinkles; a body to be loved or abused, beaten or
cherished, de Jong strikes a chillingly resonant cord with her impressive stage
As her psychologically tangled character flaunts the socially acceptable,
de Jong breaks all the bog standard rules of performance, the expectations of
spectators in unnerving fashion. This is performance art rather than theatre or dance
and one never quite knows what to expect from her next.
One can only be drawn in, respond moment by moment, emotionally and without
mediation from rational processes. It is immediate and raw and she insinuates
herself into private spaces one can't ignore.
The thwarted energy, the defiance, the self-denigration, the pain, the
reaching out are all there and the performance is improvised and changes
every night, adding to its immediacy. Accompanied by Augusto Pirroda,
improvising on piano, the performance is just 30 intense minutes with a tight
sweep moving from quiet gentleness to emotional turmoil, from interiority
to connectedness. It packs a punch and I only felt the full impact, a gut reaction,
when I was standing at the bus stop on Nicolson Street .
It left me confused and amazed and wanting to go back for more.
Neel de Jong is a Dutch performance artist with a remarkably individual
background in (physical) theatre and dance. As a performer and teacher she
has worked in a variety of styles from traditional actors training to Hopi-Indian
rites and African dance and percussion passing through the Laban Institute for
Movement and Dance in London and the Academy for Expression through Word
and Gesture in the Netherlands on the way. She is utterly unique and it is difficult
to put a classification on anything she does except to say that it is ongoing
experimentation, research into the full potential for expressive, unusual and
meaningful connections with spectators.
Driven is a generous performance that leaves a lasting impression. It leaves
the spectator with images and feelings that are personalised. I can recommend
it to those who like to be challenged.
BACK TO REVIEWS
Driven, made in 2008 for the Edinburgh Fringe festival
Quote about ‘Driven’ in Three Weeks *****, Aug. 2008:
‘Neel de Jong transports us to a beautifully different world (…)
magical and profound. (….)It is like nothing you will have seen before.
- Radio-interview Neel with (Dutch)radio Rijnmond. :"
K Kun je uitleggen waar de voorstelling 'Driven'over gaat?"
- Interview with festivalpreviews.com about the show
Driven at the Fringe
- Clip about Driven