MANIPULATE: VOX Muziektheater 'Poor Thing'

06 02 2023

Poor Thing

Sound And Vision
MANIPULATE: VOX Muziektheater 'Poor Thing'

Using object manipulation, music and a wide palette of storytelling, VOX Muziektheater's show Poor Thing, a UK premiere, explores memory, history, and the things we carry within us.

Lorna Irvine caught up with the artistic director Linde Schinkel at VOX Muziektheater to find out more about how dark and light themes co-exist within the work, and the process of making the piece.

Linde Schinkel:
Poor Thing is a unique combination between classical music (classical singing) and object theatre. I am Linde Schinkel, artistic director of VOX Muziektheater and I am a singer and a visual theatre maker. Together with actress Martine van Ditzhuyzen, we made Poor Thing

When Martine and I met, we discovered we both had a desire to make something with objects,  so we did. We wanted to use objects from 17th century still lives. We combined the theme Vanitas  that is often found in still lives with the melancholic music of John Dowland. 

When a cupboard with objects from a bygone era opens, memories come to life in enchanting still lives. The lute songs, sung live, by the 17th century English composer John Dowland strike a melancholy chord. Happy and sad moments pass. Beauty, love, comfort and sadness are shown light-heartedly, with humour and intimacy. Interspersed with harmony vocals, the objects tell their story. You see death embrace life in the famous aria from Glück's Orfeo. The cupboard with things and memories disappear under a plastic cover. Everything turns out to be transient.

In Poor Thing, three performers from VOX (a singer, an actress and a lute player) take you into the life of an anonymous deceased woman, they call her Janine.

You look back and say goodbye. A performance in which the peace of melancholy resounds. Unnoticed, they lift a veil from the viewer of everything that is dear to you, of that which has value and surrounds you. Because every object you see tells a story.

Lorna: What comes first in your work process- visuals or music?

LS: A very good question. I am a musician, so you would expect music, but I am really into visuals. So, with Poor Thing we also started with the visuals. I started to work with Martine, the actress, first. Later on, the lute player joined. 

We were ‘playing’ with the objects for a lot of hours in Martine’s attic. Searching for images or stories with the objects to express our feelings toward melancholy. 

LI: The piece deals with quite a dark theme. Is that a constant tone in your work? 

LS: Not at all. Our belief is that melancholy is the feeling of two emotions together. Pain or sorrow together with the feeling of beauty. The feeling of melancholy can be a sudden moment, when these feelings fall towards you together. We hope that through this performance we can give the audience  these moments of melancholy. Also, we would like to embrace the dead. So that we are aware of it, that it is part of our lives, and less are frightened by its concept. 

LI: Who are your biggest influences artistically?  

LS: Hotel Modern (NL), Rieks Swarte (NL) Duda Paiva , Martine: Gare Central(BE)

This publication is written in the context of the project "European Contemporary Puppetry Critical Platform"