Skip to content

'Grandiose' opening Theatre Festival doesn't quite take away the pain

"Grand opening, right?" Jeffrey Meulman, the man who, as director of the ailing Theatre Festival, spoke of 'enthusiasm' has given a new dimension, was happy. It was Thursday evening, September 4, 2014. Shortly before, I had seriously considered the 1e balcony of the City Theatre, instead of applauding Tauerbach, the opening performance of The Theatre Festival.

So it's just how you look at it.

Of course, there is reason to rejoice. At a time when money not only seems to be running out, but is seriously running out, organising a festival that is the best, most beautiful or important or whatever theatre of the past season. While at the same time, the newspaper reports that our pride, The Concertgebouw Orchestra, becomes too expensive for mere mortals and even then cannot keep their trousers up. How's the party? Well, like this. Dutch treat. Bring your own drinks.

Everyone contributes, there are no free rides more, art has become serious work. "If everyone in the Netherlands were as motivated and worked as hard as those in the performing arts, the Netherlands would be out of the crisis in one fell swoop.", said Boris van der Ham still, during his speech as jury president. And then Thomas Oberender was yet to come. Thomas Oberender, the man who as intendant of the überprestigious Berlin Theatretreffen has an almost divine status, even among Dutch theatre lovers and makers. That Thomas Oberender came to tell us, in that self-rented hall, that the whole of Germany has been watching Dutch theatre with languorous admiration for decades. Because we have opened the curtains here. Because we are anti-elitist here (don't tell Wilders), because we speak the language of all people.

Tough luck For everyone who always cried that it was so much better in Germany because you get much more subsidy (which is not true), because the public is so much more massively behind its artists (but also largely deceased or dying), because real art is still being practised there (but with the curtains closed).

Thomas Oberender further praised the fact that the populist attacks on its own culture by Wilders cs and Halbe Zijlstra had not broken the spirit. That Dutch theatre had rebounded. That we were still good. This was the moment I feared the man could no longer tell fiction, desire and reality apart. Because So things are not going so well. In defiance of all the Positive Neurolinguistic Programming by the industry itself.

So a cure for that is Tauerbach. By Alain Platel. With Elsie de Brauw. A perfect performance about a woman in a rubbish dump, trying to maintain her dignity among people who have descended to beast status. A stage setting that suddenly looks suspiciously more like a Ukrainian cornfield than a rubbish dump. Or is there no difference between the two? Bach sounds twisted and dishevelled on domestic instruments. And in an extremely slow hour and a half, the woman slowly loses everything that still made her human. What remains is silence.

A show, in short, that relegates the snuff movies of ISIS to Teletubbies.

So is there no hope at all?

Yep. The hope is called Schwalbe. A bunch of young theatre-makers from Rotterdam. They won an award because they seem to be doing something rough with theatre in old neighbourhoods, with local residents. But we haven't seen it, so maybe we haven't. Anyway: our video about their celebration of the award was retweeted in four Rotterdam world languages. We really should check that out.

Seems grandiose.

More on the theatre festival site


Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)