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Celebrate art in times of gloom. #tfboulevard

Opening speeches. Every festival has one. Or two. You have to go through them. As a guest, but also as a host. Something should be found on it. Of course a point has to be made, a flag raised, a champagne bottle bang introduced. And also the sponsors should be thanked. In these times of a retreating government, there are more of them every year. And a sponsor you don't mention this year is most likely gone next year. So yes, the opening speech.

At Theatre Festival Boulevard, it would be an idea to do something completely different with it next year. Not only because the list of people to thank is seemingly endless, but also because the festival is too grand and compelling to do something exclusive for the guests of honour. It might just be too Brabant for that.

Perhaps it is also because at the opening of Theatre Festival Boulevard, on 3 August in den Bosch, the guest speaker flown in from Amsterdam was a bit too long-winded. Which in turn resulted in the guests of honour on the garden terrace of the Joseph Quarter talking through his column as loudly as the average concert-goer in Paradiso.


So next year, do something different with that opening. Something big. Should be thinkable. Because Theatre Festival Boulevard is really starting to go big. The performance with which the festival opened, ''Imitation of Life' by Kornél Mundruczó, is one of Holland Festival allure. Technically overwhelming, flawlessly played and content something to think about for a very long time to come.

For this performance, inspired by a news event in Budapest two years ago, Hungarian director Mundruczó pulls out all the stops. In this case, literally too, as the set representing a meagre rented flat is tilted upside down a whole turn halfway through the performance as if in and delayed washing machine. Everything breaks down.


Time and bureaucracy is represented here as an all-destroying shredder, crushing lives and ensuring that each succeeding generation gets to start in an even bigger shithole as the generation before it ended.

Verily not a cheerful worldview, what our friends from the east are serving up to us. And that was actually true of everything I experienced on the opening day. 'MaiTé, the girl and the bird' by Flemish Froefroe was a lesson in gloom for children aged 6 and up. Wonderfully delicate shadow puppetry that shows how we evolved from dinosaur-killing apes to space travellers who, upon arrival on an alien planet, start hunting the local bird because, after all, there is food to be eaten.

Wonderful music, by the way. The electric guitar had all the David Bowie filters open, the horns did wondrous things and for a deep marimba you can wake me up any night.


I also went through another thingy in a tent. Assholism is a kind of pastiche on New York burlesque and Andy Warhol with lots of lilting flesh and The National Theatre. For me, the fun of 'scolding the audience for normal people' escaped me a little, but perhaps that was also because it was only four in the afternoon and thus too early for the booze they advise with it. Your experience at the end of a beer-soaked evening will probably be more exciting.

This slightly less optimistic start to the Netherlands' finest most burgundy festival can actually do no harm at all. It's not all that cheery, what's going on around us. The conversations among the pros all day were also basically about the now apparently already settled review of the arts system. And Trump. Could be just me, of course.

Nice it would be if at some point the sun of perspective broke through. Nine days to go: I am confident.


I look forward to seeing you between 3 and 13 August, on holiday in Den Bosch. And if you can't be there, subscribe to our special, daily updated Festival Boulevard newsletter!

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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