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Den Bosch delivered great encounters with @TFBoulevard

It was cold in Den Bosch on Sunday 16 August and it rained like it was not August but November. Not the ideal weather for the closing night of festival Boulevard. It did provide an atmospheric setting for some installations and the performance 'Hello fear' that were on my programme.

The installations were hidden behind the Marian Pavilion (the emergency location of Tram Quay) and despite the bad weather, they were well attended. So good themselves that many visitors drifted off because of too long a wait, the rest of the festival shouted.

Blvrd_OpeningMariapavilionC)JeanPhilipse (18 of 20)

Me and a hundred thousand

For 'Me and a hundred thousand' by Geertje van der Zee, I crawled into a tent and took a seat opposite another visitor. A large transparent screen hung between us. For ten hypnotic minutes, the light jumped and our faces melted off and on. An extraordinarily intimate process between myself and a neat older lady, who was having fun. Together, we created poses and temporarily shared an identity. The couple next to us sat dead still, undergoing the magic without manipulating it to their liking.

The installation may have been inspired by modernist Italian writer Pirandello's book 'Somebody, nobody and a hundred thousand', but the outcome was considerably more positive. In contrast to Pirandello's work where characters' struggles with their multiple identities or 'I's' often turned out negatively, Geertje van der Zee facilitated a playful encounter with this work, a moment in time when you are wordlessly together with someone for a moment, and less alone outside.

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Rilke

Next to the blue tent was a yellow container-like house, where 'Rilke' by Alexandra Brother was set. An actor there made tea, peeled an apple and carried off my and my two groupmates' luggage. The walls were lined with photographs from visitors known and unknown to me. Their greatest fear was described on the picture. I remarkably often saw 'afraid of spiders' and 'claustrophobia' listed. The questions we were asked yielded (again) an intimate introduction to fellow visitors. For a seasoned (experiential theatre-goer like me does have an objection to this. I have often been asked about my biggest secret, my deepest fear, or the worst thing I have ever experienced. The danger lurking here was routine, that you can reel off your worst nightmare as standard repertoire.

Fortunately, this encounter added something extra, and was more than 'collect emotional stories and then make that impressive', which would have been (too) easy. The actor read us a letter by the German poet Rilke, thus mirroring the concept of 'loneliness' and questioning our answers with sternness, to be able to offer us the possibilities of a different perspective.

This setup had forged a bond with the other two visitors; after all, we knew each other's worst fears. The three of us brotherly shared a large umbrella, walking through the rain towards the festival grounds.

No fear

Fear should also be the theme of the performance ' Hello Angst' by 2014 Ton Lutz Prize winner Eva Line de Boer. It is that the title gives a hint of what it would be about. Otherwise, it would have been completely unclear what these five young people, each in a colourful outfit, were doing.

Taking turns, green, pink, yellow, blue and red entered a square blue canvas and put on a blindfold. After that, they did 'something', and evaluated that 'something' with each other. They spoke encouragingly to each other or attacked each other and voted for the best. The direction was tight, the fourth wall thick. The language was meaningless management coaching jargon, words that meant little without context. When the session ended, the five were alternated by a new, identically dressed group. A thought about fear, as with the installation ' Rilke', unfortunately the piece did not deliver for me. I did not feel fear and I did not see fear, let alone smell it. I was reminded of the festival's opening speech, in which theatre maker Freek Vielen encouraged Dutch makers to be less concerned with the ' how' and take more space for the 'what' and the 'why' of their work.

Therefore, it was unfortunate that the fringe programming (the Boulevard route) of this performance, namely dinner with the creator, had been cancelled, that evening. An introduction to the director might have generated insight or empathy for this examination of fear.

Hannah Roelofs

Dramaturg, speech coach and student English teacher.View Author posts

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