The Liberation of an Angry Little Man: Comfort of outrage

Sjoerd Meijer in The Liberation of an Angry Little Man. Photo: CuePix/Ashlee Wilson

“Newsrooms: fueled by caffeine, sugar, rage, amusement and a healthy sense of panic”, is a tweet City Press news editor Natasha Joseph posted recently. To which I replied: “the most important of which is rage.”

She is also right about amusement. It is a necessary snorkel for survival when engulfed in a sea of humanity’s worst behaviour.

As The Liberation of an Angry Little Man offers a potent mix of rage and humour, and a literal dose of sugar, it cut very close to the bone, as I believe it would for any journalist.

But although Sjoerd Meijer’s superb work is spurred by an early-20th Century news event, it is not about the media, not in any specific sense. While some news journalists may be susceptible to recognising their own occasional outrage-fueled rants at humanity’s overwhelmingly despicable behaviour, anyone who possesses enough empathy and imagination to be affronted by society’s pervasive injustice, will see themselves reflected on stage.

A familiarity with occasional bouts of self-loathing and disgust are also useful in aiding identification with Meijer’s character.

Yet, as bleak as this may sound, Meijer’s light touch, his mix of Dutch directness and subtlety achieved through meta-theatre narrative and self-effacing humour, provide a buoy upon which we can safely moor ourselves and laugh desperately in a sea of despair.

This work is in fact a brilliant example of how meta-theatre can be used to create a sense of intimacy, of solace, drawing the audience in to the performer’s own world, rather than being the exclusionary technique it so often becomes.

The beauty of this play is that the masterful use of technique, Meijer’s breathtakingly honest performance, and Sarah Jonker’s direction means we don’t have to know anything about post-modernism and the discourse of theatre, or even notice that the house lights remain on for the entire performance – which has not one blackout – to be completely included in Meijer’s confessionary tale.

In this sense, work is both a joy to see and an education, which is the ubiquitous achievement of good, and in this case excellent, art.

It is worth mentioning that The Liberation of an Angry Little Man received the Best of Amsterdam Fringe award, and it is the establishment of the World Fringe Alliance spearheaded by the National Arts Festival (this sounds like PR but it’s true nonetheless) that provides us the pleasure of witnessing theatre’s international cutting edge.

– Steve Kretzmann

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