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Henley 2015 Credit: Dominic Rodgers

Review: Amsterdam

Colanders, mini lightsabers and slanted furniture give an interesting aesthetic to Chanje Kunda’s new play Amsterdam, which mixes drama with performance poetry and art. We were fortunate enough to watch the play’s world premiere on Friday 3rd October in the intimate space of the Contact Theatre—and it certainly didn’t disappoint! As we follow Chanje through a year of her life, we experience her first trips to Amsterdam, which lead to a new relationship and causes her to re-evaluate the way she looks at her life in Manchester.

Chanje is a very likeable performer and despite at times the play becoming bogged down in metaphors, especially towards the end, she is an inclusive entertainer and the piece has a conspiratorial tone. The overtly comedic sections present a very warm and familiar setting—as if we were gossiping with a friend. The crowd responded with laughter throughout the play, raucously so at the use of a megaphone to evoke the voices of friends and family; and the subversion of conventional terms used for emails into tongue-in-cheek flirtation.

This symbolism of material goods to express something more intangible is used throughout the play and it begins with freedom being poetically described as “your own roof” and other household appliances. The link between the product and experience remains strong, with Chanje coupling the excitement of her new life—and man—in Amsterdam with luxury apartments and fast cars. The doomed nature of the relationship probably hints more closely at her real views on the connection between commodities and happiness, short-term gratification and long-term contentment.

This is epitomised in the play’s denouement with a second performance of a poem about her son—which also features a recording of her son reciting along with her. It focuses on her son’s love of the rain and, as such, represents a return to, and realisation of, Chanje’s maternal responsibilities. Through the return to a love that is based on natural closeness rather than the enticements of luxury shows the hollowness of her love in Amsterdam and the pureness of that for her son.

Chanje exceeds all expectations as a one-woman performer; her ability to embody several characters (somewhat stereotypically) is both humorous and believable. Having no one else on stage to bounce off of or prompt makes the fluidity of her rhythm and rhyme all the more impressive.

Tags: Amsterdam, Chanje Kunda, Contact Theatre.

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