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2007 Alice: Successful symbiosis of impro-jazz and poetry (eng)

Marc van Vugt's Big Bizar Habit, Wednesday 28th of November 2007, Paradox, Tilburg. By Maarten van de Ven, 27.12.07

In spite of his high fever, Marc van Vugt dragged himself out of bed last Wednesday, to initiate the miraculous world of 'Alice in Space' in Paradox. Alice in Space is an improvised space opera for two voices. Several musicians in a universe render a free interpretation of Robert Sheckley’s cult classic 'Dimension of Miracles' from 1968, a science fiction novel that tells the story of Carmody, an earthling who receives a message telling him he has won a prize in some inter-galactic prize contest. According to singer Ineke van Doorn, who plays Alice, "A most contemporary theme. That’s why the book is so much fun and very interesting". Vincent Wijlhuizen fills the postion of city poet Ingmar Heytze, who’s not able to leave the city of Utrecht right now, but who wrote the lyrics for 'Alice in Space' in close conjunction with Van Doorn. Wijlhuizen interprets different roles during the show, which makes him a binding factor in the story. He plays the Messenger, Space God Melichrone ("all is all") and Veenendaal, contractor of outer space and an absolute sudoku mad waterfall of words. His convincing performance is a tribute to his acting background. All different characters keep in a natural and poignant synchronicity with the performing people. Ineke van Doorn is her comfortable self and feels like the proverbial fish in water in her role as Alice. She wins an inter-galactic barbie doll and is sent on a journey through the Universe. She crosses distant constellations and foreign worlds, and returns to Earth a whole lot wiser. Textually 'Alice in Space' is solid as a rock. The words are witty, well-formulated, unique, sometimes moving and sometimes philosophical. Van Doorn sings 'Witte Plek' (White Spot), a poem written by Heytze about the desire to escape from the chaos of falling bombs and threatening viruses ("when the siren goes I want a place where I can leave into the dark without being interrupted"). Wijlhuizen's Melichrone character does a mind boggling recital about 'All and Omega', where words that contain 'all‘ randomly mix and tumble along with a well-controlled and explicitely clear examination concerning the law of the jungle: eat or be eaten. Speech is conveniently embedded in the musical packaging of this improvised space opera. From a musical point of view, the occupation of the podium can at least be called impressive. Opposite Van Vugt are Angelo Verploegen (trumpet), Mete Erker (sax), Jeffrey Bruinsma (violin), Paul Stouthamer (cello), Paul Berner (double-bass) and Joost Lijbaart (percussion). The music, written by Van Vugt and Van Doorn is diverse, exciting and represented by the band with conviction and perfect harmony. Moreover Van Doorn combines spoken and sung words with additional piano music. Solo performances are notably strong. Bruinsma spicens up his violin play with an interesting wah-wah. Erker has become a strong musical character in just a matter of years and his quick, over-the-top sax solo, in a nervy up-tempo piece is the perfect example of this. Especially beautiful is the rhythm section -the exceptionally complete bass sounds by Berner and inventive percussion work by van Lijbaart– and how this accommodates an improvisation by Stouthamer with its musical punctuation. Verploegen and Van Vugt both make sure the piece as a whole is streamlined and Verploegen impresses, as he does, with his long dragging trumpet sounds. Besides all the aforementioned, there is a lot of visual pleasure on offer. Very funny is the footage of Ineke and her protesting against extraterrestrial creatures kidnapping people. Slides of animals and insects are shown to support the previously mentioned explanation of the law of the jungle. Furthermore there is a bizarre film clip of a horse and trap, the horse being nothing more than a galloping bundle of bones. And last but not least, an honorary mention goes out for Heytze's extremely funny voice-over of a well-known Dutch TV-scientist, Chriet Titulaer. Fortunately on 6 December one of the performances in Utrecht (SJU Jazz podium) was filmed to be released on DVD. The contents of 'Alice in Space' are definitely rich enough to relive. Here’s hoping that more organizers and venue owners have the courage to attract this production.

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