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Three actresses and a hijab. That's all Alum needs for chillingly beautiful Bakchanten

What we sometimes forget is that art is not made by artists, but by ón us. After all, art is what happens in our heads. An artist merely provides material with which we, mere mortals, create our own images, associations and stories. That is why special effects bore us so quickly and why ingenious sets become obsolete before they even reach the final performance: they take work out of our hands, while it is precisely that work that makes art so fine.

Fine then, that Alum, the Utrecht-based theatre group celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2021, makes theatre reduced to the 'bare essentials': text, actors and minimal scenery. That's all you need, too.


I went to a theatre performance yesterday for the first time in ages, so it was excellent. In its own building, Alum has provided a coronaproof setting that offers confidence, but also comfort and cosiness. Things that seemed mutually exclusive for a long time.

Why it particularly liked it was the performance itself. Alum plays classics once in a while 'unplugged'. That means no fuss, just the story and the players. With Bakchanten, 2,500 years old but never surpassed in eloquence since, they have gold in their hands.


Victorine Plante, who developed from fierce cabaret girl to inspired director over the past 30 years, brought together three actresses who were not only fantastic presence have, but can also sing excellently. And, fun for the initiated, with the return of Audrey Bolder to the Alum stage, it is also a reunion of sorts of the once illustrious but too soon burnt-out cabaret duo Bolder&Plante.

The three actresses tell the story of Dionysus, the Greek god of ecstasy, who leads the women of the city of Thebes away for a wild orgy in the mountains outside the city. The prince of Thebes is angry, wants to punish the women and, as a result, does not meet his end nicely. The play is called a tragedy, but writer Euripides managed to write some farcical elements into it 400 years before our era. Awkward for people who abhor mixing genres, but very nice for anyone who likes spectacle.

Game of Thrones

And spectacle the play offers, in the form of stories. Audrey Bolder takes charge of the two big spectacle scenes: two so-called 'messenger stories' describing horrors that dwarf Game of Thrones. Rarely do you experience power of storytelling better than in Euripides' Bakchanten. Rarely was this given more space than in the play of Audrey Bolder, who relies so heavily on the text that she dares to throw in a character as well. She can do that; Euripides gets the better of it.

So a play that is two and a half millennia old can still offer something new. Especially for those who, corona or otherwise, had lost touch with the theatre for a while.

This performance will tour schools. Seventy-five graduating classes will experience why the Greeks deserve our deepest respect. And all because Alum has pulled the plug for this one. Above all, let them continue to do so for a very long time.

Good to know Good to know
Bakchanten is final exam material Greek 2021 and will tour grammar schools throughout the Netherlands from October 2020. During the Month of History, from 9 to 11 October and from 23 to 25 October, the performance will also be on public view in its own home (Villa Concordia, Utrecht). Alum will also play the performance at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, from 25 to 27 November 2020. Information and playlist:

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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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