Some five years ago or so, my mother and I watched De Tweeling. A Dutch film internationally known under the title Twin Sisters, that won raves back in 2003. So much so that it got an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film in 2004. The film made a lasting impression and when I got the opportunity to read and study the book (on which the film is based) in literature class, the choice was made. Even more than the film, I was touched by the book. You can imagine that when I found out Stage Entertainment was going to produce a stage adaptation, I was very curious. I reached out to them and they invited me to the gala premiere this afternoon. Fantastic!
The story of De Tweeling - or at least the storytelling - is quite extensively changed for this theatre version. In the book and the movie the story is told from a present day situation, in which two elderly twin sisters, separated as children some years before World War II, meet each other for the first time in fifty years. One of them grew up in The Netherlands, whereas the other one stayed in their native Germany. Their lives have been drastically influenced by their respective upbringings. There is a total lack of understanding and a lot of bitterness towards each other.
In this musical version their stories are told from a situation right after the war has ended. The wounds are still fresh. In a way this is very interesting, but I could not help but feel that the original was more powerful. By placing their reunion years earlier it is less tragic, as the sisters have a lifetime ahead of them. Also in the film especially, some of the most touching moments were in that present-day situation, between the elderly sisters. The essence of the story stays untouched though and gives a beautiful insight and an unexpected understanding of very different, but normal lives in the war.
This stage version of De Tweeling has a modernity to it that is very pleasant to watch. Especially for a musical on World War II. In part it has to do with the beautiful music written by Ilse de Lange and JB Meijers - creative brains behind the Eurovision sensation The Common Linnets - but in part also with the beautiful staging and choreography. Modern dancing, the use of light and colour, projections and symbolic gestures all contribute to that utterly modern feeling.
The cast is relatively unknown here in the Netherlands, but absolutely great. Especially the titular twin sisters Anna en Lotte, portrayed by Dutch actresses Hanna van Vliet and Rosa de Silva. The way they portray the difficult relation they have, as well as their respective histories, is very touching and real. Together with a cast (including Doris Baaten and Kees Boot) they told this beautiful story really, really nicely.
Sometimes it is better not to know the material before you see a show, and I think that is the case for De Tweeling. I came with expectations that were a bit different from what I got to see. Yet I think that this on stage production is very beautiful. The utterly modern feel to it and the great cast playing the piece have made up for whatever I thought I was missing. And as I said before, the essence of the play is still very much the same and absolutely relevant. This is a Dutch production though, so for many of you not that interesting (unless you understand Dutch of course). For my Dutch readers: ga vooral zelf deze voorstelling bekijken! Te zien in het De La Mar in Amsterdam tot eind januari en daarna in theaters door het hele land.