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Viktorien van Hulst (Boulevard): 'The thresholds are low but the bar is high' #TFBoulevard

Boulevard flags fly everywhere in Den Bosch in the sunshine. The office of the 32-year-old Theatre Festival Boulevard on Sint Josephstraat is a jumble of people walking in and out. The beaming director, Viktorien van Hulst, has bags under her eyes like a festival director should have three days before the opening.

Theatre Festival Boulevard is one of the lucky winners of subsidy in the four-year round of the Performing Arts Fund. A nice boost, which became known only three days before the opening of this edition. During our conversation, it was not yet known whether Theatre Festival Boulevard would receive that money from the Performing Arts Fund. (NB: If you are reading this well!) That is why the director had an A and a B version in the drawer for her opening speech on Thursday, August 4. It's something that comes with the territory, in this profession.

Cheering for a moment

"Boulevard was positively assessed for the last arts plan but fell just below the 'saw line'. We made it thanks to the new Brabant fund Brabants C, the Jheronimus Bosch year and one-off repair budgets from the Lower House. But festivals were disproportionately cut four years ago. Of course I will cheer for a moment if we make it now, but then again I won't. Because that means pushing another well-functioning festival out of the system.

As festivals, we consult with each other and are not competitive. Colleagues also do very well. Each festival is rooted in a different environment and puts its own emphases. Some performances we exchange. But most of it cannot be seen anywhere else. The great strength of festivals in general is how we connect audiences and makers. People easily try something new, they often see several performances. Creators welcome audience interaction, which is very different at a festival than in a theatre, for example."

What kind of festival is Boulevard?

'"We are broad and accessible. Which is something different from easy. There is a very diverse offer for a wide audience. We have separate brochures for youth theatre, accessible performances, 'complex' performances and also a programme for people who have nothing to spend. There is also attention for the deaf and blind and people in wheelchairs. Anyway, I think the hospitality you have as a festival is very important.

Welcome phrase

We like to take good care of our audience. Together with our 300 volunteers, we recently practised a welcome phrase in sign language. As for content, we prefer sensual work and strong visual imagery, which is right in such a traditionally Catholic environment. Southern and Flemish makers also feel really at home here. And furthermore, I have a fondness for makers who explore the boundaries of the theatrical discipline.'

Which performance are you most looking forward to?

'"I am looking forward to all the great performances that audiences can go and see here, for example Zvizdal by Berlin in co-production with the Southern Theatre. I am looking forward to our second festival heart and personally I am also very much looking forward to the closing day. That's when we will be working with French artist Olivier Grossetête rebuild the tower of St John's burnt down in 1584 in the Market Square with cardboard boxes''.

You've been doing this for a year and a half now, have you been able to put your own stamp on the festival?

'"This is my second edition. My predecessor Geert Overdam gave me all the space I needed by not leaving a legacy of long-term commitments. That second festival heart, this year not in the Mariapavilion but here in the Sint Joseph Quarter, that is really something of mine. Every space and corridor contains performances that demand an active audience attitude from visitors. The encounter between maker and spectator is central. Lotte van den Berg engages with audiences again, using a new technique. Anna van der Kruis asks individual visitors about their art experiences. This festival is an encounter, an exchange with all parties.''

Good to know
Theatre Festival Boulevard can be visited in Den Bosch from 4 to 14 August.

For more information: see the website

Hannah Roelofs

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

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