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White wine and black pain at finely diverse Theatre Festival Boulevard

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One of the benefits of advancing secularisation is that beautiful buildings are becoming vacant in more and more places. You can do things with those buildings. With art, for example. So this week, Studio Orka from Belgium did something beautiful in the Maria Church in Vught. They turned the empty neo-Romanesque building into, yes, an empty church. In that church, the villager has built his own universe. That breakneck structure forms a wonderful backdrop for a very sweet piece of primitive folk theatre, the kind only Belgians can still make. Or dare to.

After previous deeply moving successes like Chasse Patate, two years ago in a meadow below Den Bosch, the folks from Orka need not bother to sell out their shows. And rightly so: the busloads of spectators do not come home cold.


Now that piece, Craquelé, is not very 'diverse' in terms of cast colourfulness, shall we say. But that's not a bad thing. In fact, the very fact that this company is at a festival like Boulevard adds to the diversity of the offering, which is otherwise as varied as it gets. After all, as long as the queue for Studio Orca is every day, were the queues for the two nights Sadettin Kirmiziyuz was at the Boulevard theatre with his hit show Citizen K.

This hour-and-a-half-long, brilliantly voiced, scream of helpless rage about the tearfulness of a Zutphen-born and raised child of Turkish-born parents should really tour for another year. More people should experience this. Because after that performance you understand just that little bit better why even well-meaning multicultitalk can be so totally wrong for someone who didn't grow up as a white person in a white society.


A tent away, I got to experience a very different extreme of diversity at the 'spoken word' artists of 'People Say Things'. I was introduced to Isa Altink's social agony, Mahat Arab's alcoholism and Marlon Penn's deep-bronze voice. The latter in particular managed to touch me. He sounds as Gronings warm as Ede Staal, while he looks like Bill Withers and can also cover those perfectly. That causes a very pleasant short circuit in head and heart.

There is also a short circuit in our perception of what is elitist, and what is not. I caught a snippet of the discussions organised by Theatre Festival Boulevard in the foyers of Theater aan de Parade. It was about elite, and one of the experts was quite convincing in her statement that it is precisely festivals with uncomfortable seats and warm tents that count as elitist, as opposed to the red plush of an old-fashioned theatre. According to her, the resident of the not yet gentrified working-class neighbourhood does not see the dolled-up fur coat with fat BMW as elite.

Elite, that's the millennial these days who spends his hard-earned pennies on a glass of verdejo in Boulevard's wine bar. Just so you know.

That verdejo, by the way, is very doable.

Good to know Good to know
Theatre festival Boulevard in den Bosch continues until 11 August. Information.

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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