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Theatre festival Boulevard: Not the Avignon, but the Berlin of the Netherlands?

There are many reasons not to go on holiday. It costs money, you come back more stressed than you went, the food is no good, it costs tons of CO2 and it doesn't increase mutual understanding between countries either. Reason enough, then, to just stay here and enjoy the free time given to you by the boss, or by yourself if you are self-employed. Without being barked at by airport staff.

One of the best ways to do that, especially if you don't fancy crowded beaches with obese greased tourists, is: summer festivals.

More people know that, which is why those festivals are doing so well. Especially the big ones: Over 't IJ, Noorderzon and Boulevard. All three are different, and all three worth the trip, even if you don't happen to live in Amsterdam Noord, Groningen or Den Bosch respectively. And then Den Bosch is actually the most special. I list why:

1 Nice mix of great art and smart entertainment

The Avignon of the Netherlands. That's how some fans would like to see the festival. And they have a point. Den Bosch is about the same size as the southern French city where a huge festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer. The performances of the main programme are among the world's best, and those who are not among the (rich) lucky ones who were able to get a ticket for it, can indulge themselves in the city's many squares, and in all the barns, living rooms and cellars where the two 'Off' festivals take place. Indeed: two, because, as befits the French, someone once separated from the Official 'Off' and created their own 'Off'. Come into the ticket office of one 'OFF' they know nothing about the other, and vice versa. We call that French sociability, and you are happy to travel 1,300 kilometres for that.

Den Bosch has some pretty great art, although Toneelgroep Amsterdam has yet to make its appearance there. But Boulevard especially has a lot of surprising things, and performances from the Flemish circuit, often much earlier than they can be seen in the rest of the country. I am already looking forward to Compagnie Cecilia's show 'Chet'.

For the 'Off' thing, the alternative venue takes care of it: young makers, youth performances, experiments: actually too much and too much fun, although the risk of the occasional miss is always there. Last year I experienced a few: don't worry, the festival can take it. The venue is now set up as a beer garden. And that provides a little nuance to the first sentence of this piece: festival Boulevard is not Avignon, it's Berlin. Sort of.

2 The hospitality industry is better

It's good food in Den Bosch, and the festival square is still the place to be. There is something remarkable going on here, though. The permanent terraces on the Parade attract a completely different crowd from the open festival site, and this has only grown stronger since the local catering entrepreneurs no longer act as tenants of the food and drink tents on the festival site. Everything is now coordinated, and there is high-level cooking, from quite a lot of corners of the world. Even the Fish & Chips was eatable last year.

3 Bus attendants are still unique

You just have to experience that.

4 The city wears the festival on its hands

The most important thing about Festival Boulevard is its embedding in the population. The people of Bosschen are proud of the festival and, even when things threaten to go wrong for a while, they roll up their sleeves to solve the matter. Last year, it turned out that someone had found asbestos in a building where a large part of the festival was to take place: the city: residents but, above all, local entrepreneurs and people, provided an alternative location within a few days. Pretty rare. Incidentally, the Theater a/d Parade now has an asbestos problem, which is now also being energetically addressed.

5 It is the best bridge between the outdoor and indoor seasons

August is the hottest, and sometimes wettest month of the year, so it makes sense to programme everything outdoors, but also provide things under roof, with or without air conditioning. That's why Theatre Festival Boulevard not only has great performances at unexpected outdoor venues, but there is also The Theatre on the Parade, which is always in full participation. This makes it very easy to make the transition from the bucket seats on the outdoor stands to the red plush of the theatre season.

I am going to be there and would love to see you there.

Good to know

Festival Boulevard lasts from 4 to 14 August 2016.

Things to look forward to:

The Turret. Daan Windhorst and Oscar Kocken are of the good ideas. Last year, I saw their 'Zomaargasten' and was sold. This year, they bring back an old festival topper: The Turret. Political theatre that is different every performance, and always surprises. In the tented theatre on the festival square.

Chet. Musical ode to Chet Baker. Compagnie Cecilia previously made the theatrical original of The Broken Circle Breakdown, so that's in order.

Dinner with André Manuel and Geert Hautekiet. At Theatre Festival Boulevard, all the creators can be touched and seen up close. You can even have dinner with them. Personally, I would love to join Geert Hautekiet and André Manuel, prior to their programme XIX.

Enquiries.

 

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

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