DTC / Ajax
October 2007

DTC / Ajax
De Theatercompagnie

The play Ajax, based on the classic Greek text by Sofokles, was a co-production between two Amsterdam theatre groups: De Theatercompagnie and Toneelgroep Amsterdam. It toured through the Netherlands throughout October, November and December, 2007.

The posters we designed for Ajax were quite atypical compared to the other posters we did for De Theatercompagnie. As a matter of fact, we don't consider Ajax to be part of the actual series at all. (To see the 'proper' series, as a whole, visit Gilgamesj, The Pillowman, Driekoningenavond, De Vrouw van Vroeger, Het Koude Kind, Peanuts, Het Wijde Land and De Wilde Eend).

It might be quite boring to explain why the posters we made for Ajax look so different from the other posters we designed for De Theatercompagnie; it was all purely a matter of theatre politics.
In short, the play was a co-production between De Theatercompagnie and Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the second time they worked together. The first time these two groups collaborated together (on the play 'Don Carlos' in 2006), all the printed matter was designed by Toneelgroep Amsterdam, and it was decided that when the second collaboration would take place, all the printed matter would be designed by De Theatercompagnie (in other words, by us). However, when this second time came around (with Ajax), Toneelgroep Amsterdam objected against our typographic posters, and wanted to design the posters themselves.
To be honest, we couldn't care less. It's not that we wanted to design those posters by all means necessary. In fact, we begged De Theatercompagnie to just let Toneelgroep Amsterdam design the posters themselves, and leave us out of it. We certainly don't want to force people to use our work when they in fact hate our work. It's as simple as that.
But unfortunately, the whole matter became a sort of political powerplay between the directors of the two theatre groups, and suddenly the whole collaboration seemed to depend on us. De Theatercompagnie insisted that we would design the posters, Toneelgroep Amsterdam insisted that their photography would be used, and a horrible compromise was reached: we had to design the poster, using a photograph supplied by Toneelgroep Amsterdam.

Searching for a solution, we quickly realized that we didn't want to mix our own textual approach with their photography. We wanted to avoid to turn this into some kind of hybrid, crossover thing. Besides, we understood that the moment we would combine our typography with their glossy, celebrity-driven brand of photography, the text would suddenly be degraded into some kind of secondary matter, into captions or subtitles. We didn't want that.
So instead of combining two concepts, we wanted to do something completely different. We decided to just use the given photograph, albeit in a very graphic, dry way. We stripped it from its full-colour celebrity gloss, and surrounded it with empty space, to minimize its theatrical impact.
The photograph that was supplied to us (taken by Jasper Zwartjes) showed one of the actors wearing a knitted cap, pulled close to his eyes. In the Dutch context, this image is an obvious reference to the well-known logo of Ajax, the Amsterdam football club; a logo that shows Ajax, the Greek god, wearing a Trojan war helmet, the visor right above his eyes.
Personally, we would have never chosen this reference. But since the photograph was a given, we had to roll with it. So we decided to play along with the football reference, and came up with a poster series printed in various combinations of red and white, the colours of Ajax the football club.

Shown below the series of posters we did for Ajax the play. In total, we designed four posters: two A2-sized posters and two A0-sized posters. The colours used were red on white, black on red, red on black, and white on red:

experimental_jetset_ajaxa0-1 experimental_jetset_ajaxa2-3
experimental_jetset_ajaxa2-4 experimental_jetset_ajaxa0-2
We also designed a simple A5 card, printed on both sides. We put a perforation in the middle, to break up the card in two A6 cards. Shown below the front and back of this A5 card:
experimental_jetset_ajaxa5-frontexperimental_jetset_ajaxa5-back
As usual, the brochure was an double-sided A2-sized sheet, folded to an A5-sided booklet. Shown below the front- and back of the booklet:

Unfolded, the booklet turned out to be a A2-sized poster. Shown the front and back:

While designing this brochure, we began to play around a bit with the title of the play, and the photograph of the actor. By sometimes turning 'Ajax' on its head, we tried to refer to the idea of a 'fallen' hero, literally a hero 'on his back'. (After all, the actual character of Ajax is dead during the biggest part of the play).

For the play, we also had to design a t-shirt that was being sold during the tour, almost as 'band merchandise'. For the print of this shirt, we stuck with the idea of putting 'Ajax' on its head:
experimental_jetset_ajax-shirt
As was the case with all of the other plays (Gilgamesj, The Pillowman, Driekoningenavond, etc.), for Ajax we also had to design lots of tiny last-moment advertisements (mostly for magazines, newspapers and websites). We won't show all these small adverts here, but some examples can be seen at DTC / Banners. On that page, we show a couple of banners that were used on various theatre-themed websites (such as www.moose.nl).

Apart from a website banner, we also designed, for Ajax, an actual banner. When the piece landed in Amsterdam, it was played at De Stadsschouwburg, a big theatre hall. For the front of this hall we designed a banner of 13,5 x 1,5 meter (not shown here).

Posters, card and brochure printed by Drukkerij robstolk (r). T-shirt printed by B&B Textieldruk. Banner printed by Fish Belettering.

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posters
printed matter

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