Anna Verkouteren Jansen (the Netherlands, 1992) makes filmic, darkly comic theatre about loneliness and human incapacity. Her productions are populated by characters who seem to have become caricatures of themselves, wandering aimlessly around an absurd universe. She observes these underdogs with a loving eye, recording how the body expresses what language cannot.
Verkouteren Jansen graduated in Directing from the Toneelacademie Maastricht institute of performative arts in the summer of 2017 with the film adaptation The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos). The previous year her production Stallerhof (Franz Xaver Kroetz) played in Frascati, dealing with an impossible romantic entanglement between a teenage girl with learning difficulties and a stable boy four times her age. In both productions, helpless souls seek comfort in a stylised way, while primitive urges and emotions churn away below layers of thick skin.
In 2018, she created Plankton, together with Hendrik Kegels, for Frascati Producties. In this slo-mo ballad of sadness and seclusion, she presented a series of individuals taking up arms, like modern Don Quichotes against the emptiness of existence. Because man has the capacity to create worlds on top of reality. And because the heart continues to long and the soul to stir below a grey layer of fat and stifled expectations. Inspiration came among other things from the films of Miranda July, dark graphic novels, science fiction and nature documentaries.
In the same year, together with young actress Jente Jonkhoff, Verkouteren Jansen made a presentation for Frascati Issues #Rebel. The starting point for this was formed by the famous photo series Beach Portraits by Rineke Dijkstra, in which she portrayed dozens of adolescents in classic poses on the beach. Jonkhoff got under the teens’ skins in the moment just before she took the photo, so managing to bring their awkwardness and existential uncertainties, so subtly visible on the photo, to life.
This was followed by the English-language production Het principe van verdwijnen, in which Jansen gives form to the space between being and non-being, light and darkness, as seen through the prism of the work of Haruki Murakami and Marguerite Duras. In a filmic, hallucinogenic trip, she reveals a parallel world. Here, in this space, man’s loneliness takes on cosmic proportions, and the memory of what happened is all that remains.
"Question. What does a human being have to do to avoid reality, without thinking seriously? In theory it’s simple. Dream. Keep dreaming. Step into the world of the dream and never leave again. This where eternal life can be found. Reality bites." Haruki Murakami – Sputnik Sweetheart
´In Het principe van verdwijnen, we find ourselves in a Murakamian twilight zone (…) This throws up interesting thought patterns on existential loneliness and the (im)possibility of imagining disappearing (…).' Theaterkrant
‘What Jansen shows is at times drily comic; but it is also possible to keep watching, in amazement.’ – de Volkskrant on Plankton
Anna Verkouteren Jansen (1992) graduated in Directing from Toneelacademie Maastricht (institute of performative arts) in the summer of 2017. After graduation, she created the container production Voodoo Rouge for Over 't IJ festival. At Frascati Producties, she made Plankton (2018) with Hendrik Kegels and Het principe van verdwijnen (2019).
Photo: Viktoryia Shydlouskaya