“So The Nation takes binge watching to a whole new level. Its very length generates a very special sense of community. It is the same feeling the Greeks must have had when they sat through three tragedies and a satyr play in one day.”
“The Nation by Eric de Vroedt is the theatre event of the year.”
The Nation is a contemporary theatre thriller about Dutch multicultural society gone mad. It starts with a mystery: the eleven-year old Ismaël has vanished without trace. What happens next is a search through every layer of society. In six tense episodes, The Nation holds up a mirror to image forming and identity: what image do we have of the other and what image do we present of ourselves? Do we see the other as an individual or as a stereotype? How much effort do we make to look beyond the mask of the other, and when do we allow our own masks to fall away? In the continuous battle to determine, protect or fight for our own identity, we quickly lose sight of what life is really about.
An eleven-year old child has disappeared. Where you expect a joint search operation, we mainly see rogue individuals who regard this tragedy as an opportunity to raise their profiles.
From the jury report:
The Nation lasts five hours, and consists of six episodes, like a television series. It is both a thriller (who murdered an eleven-year-old boy?) along the lines of series like Luther and The Bridge and a portrayal of Dutch society, a succession of people who each in their own way try to prove they are in the right: Dutch police, journalists, entrepreneurs and politicians, but also Moroccans, Kosovans and Africans.
The protagonist is the politician Wouter Wolff, who is deeply committed to the good, left-wing cause (and up against entrepreneur Sjoerd van der Poot’s dubious mega project), but his downfall will be precipitous.
Ingeniously de Vroedt sets in motion a broad-based kaleidoscopic story which seems intent on penetrating every social layer, without avoiding a single question. According to the process of dialectics, every statement is negated by its opposite. Intellectual confusion as our modern-day condition humaine.
In terms of form, this is an engrossing production. For every episode de Vroedt used a different narrative style: a talk show (packed with suspense and irony), a documentary which makes very clever use of the video screen, a long dialogue which takes up a whole episode, etc.
He risks firing his last shot in the compelling first episode, but we needn’t have worried for the ride is exciting to the end. Here we have a real playwright at work, both intelligent and socially committed, who faultlessly controls all the registers.
Moreover, with The Nation de Vroedt proves he is an outstanding actor’s director. Tamar van den Dop and Vanja Rukavina are particularly adept at handling their double roles. And leading role Hein van der Heijden interprets his politician right across the spectrum, from rhetorical in public life, aggressive in his battle with his opponent (a brilliant Mark Rietman) and vulnerable on a personal level.
So The Nation takes binge watching to a whole new level. Its very length generates a very special sense of community. It is the same feeling the Greeks must have had when they sat through three tragedies and a satyr play in one day. The marathon, not as a gimmick, but as a real theatrical phenomenon.