DEGASTEN is a youth (12 to 25 years) theatre company from Amsterdam. This socially committed company gives young people the opportunity to develop their talents and create productions of high artistic value.
Theatre-makers Elike Roovers and Rutger Esajas make inter-disciplinary montage theatre on topics of contemporary relevance based on how their performers experience the world. The performers are co-authors of their work and contribute storylines that are transformed into intense, theatrical experiences. Their work is often physical and associative and characterised by dynamic images and music. Roovers and Esajas are constantly investigating the expressiveness of theatre in our era and do not shy away from confrontation with their audience.
Since 2017, directors/theatre-makers Elike Roovers and Rutger Esajas have worked with Frascati Producties within the programming range De (on)vertelde Stad. An intensive cooperation has arisen with Arq Psychotrauma Expert Groep, a mental health care body involved with the consequences of shocking events and psycho-trauma. Arq was established after WWII and has grown along with the times: part of the patient population is now made up of refugees with post-traumatic stress disorder. Together with Arq, Frascati investigates the potential of theatre for and by vulnerable people.
The first production in this process, To be or not to be. We will be, was made with a group of 12 patients affiliated to Arq, 4 young performers from DEGASTEN and a professional actor and was presented in Frascati in May 2018 (and revived owing to its success in December 2018). The production was put together as a montage of improvisations: a nightmare interspersed with a dance, while the performers shared private moments from their lives with members of the audience at individual tables. Even without any background knowledge, it became crystal clear how important it was for the cast to share their stories, particularly within a context different from the therapy room. The theatrical context offered by Roovers and Esajas provided an opening for experience, emotion and release, both for the participants and the audience.
In the same year, My name before Naomi was made – a production on the complexity of human trafficking, made with and performed by two of the participants in To be or not to be and a professional actress. Within this context, the group organised an expert meeting in the area of human trafficking. The production was revived in March 2019. This poignant story can also be seen this summer at the Over het IJ festival, from 5 through 14 July.
Elike Roovers and Rutger Esajas are currently working on Let there be light; a second project with a new group of patients from Arq, which will be performed from 8 through 11 May 2019 in Frascati 4 as part of Frascati Issues: #To Heal.
‘I soon realised here that a lot of people I talked to didn’t really believe that human trafficking actually happens in the Netherlands. Many people deny this – they don’t believe that something like that can happen in their country. But it does happen – I have experienced it myself. That prompted me to make this production: it should be an eye-opener for those who don’t know, or don’t want to know.' – Naomi in a preview by Sander Janssen in Het Parool
'Switching between cool, business-like and personal perspectives is a wonderful metaphor for the human drama hidden away in stone buildings and procedures.' Trouw on My Name before Naomi ★★★★