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Oscar van Woensel

After finishing secondary school, Oscar van Woensel (born 1970, Heemskerk) enrolled in the theatre school in Arnhem. There he was taught to become not only an actor, but also a playwright. He learned a way of working that he would often employ later, namely, writing his plays in interaction with the actors during rehearsals. In 1993, his graduation year, he and fellow classmates Manja Topper and Kuno Bakker founded Toneelgroep Dood Paard. It was within this theatre company that Van Woensel honed his playwriting skills. Their intensive way of working contributed to the development of his tone and style. In addition to Dood Paard, he has worked closely with the children’s theatre company Het Syndicaat, writing five plays for them between 1996 and 2000. He has also written children’s plays for other theatre companies.

By now, Van Woensel has evolved into one of the Netherlands most productive playwrights. In less than seven years, 25 plays have appeared under his name. He has additionally written adaptations of plays by William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Martin Amis, among others.

The most characteristic aspect of Van Woensel’s plays is language. A magnification of the ordinary vernacular, it is capricious, associative, raw and streetwise. His characters speak in phrases and incomplete sentences that are written without punctuation and with a great feeling for rhythm and sound. The script contains many “uh’s” and “eh’s?”, “fuck’s” and other popular English utterances, excerpts from pop songs and one-liners.

Van Woensel does not tell stories. Rather, his plays are a torrent of words, eruptions of sentences, verbal choreographies driven by an underlying theme. With Drie familietragedies, Wie..., and Tussen ons gezegd en gezwegen, that theme is youth marked by incest and violence. The plays Tasso Casus Belli and Blaat are propelled by the theme of the degeneration of art in a world ruled by high finance, although this theme in fact plays a role in all his writing. Talking does not confer any enlightenment upon his characters and it is not for nothing that a great deal of alcohol is consumed in almost all of his plays.

Van Woensel’s work conveys an unbridled, explosive energy driven by rage. Rage over violence, rage over a world in which people emotionlessly rationalise their emptiness, deficiency and impotence and where art is ridden with cancer through advertising, television and marketing strategy.

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