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This year's Theatre Festival Boulevard feels greener than usual - and you'll notice it in the performances #tfboulevard

The permanent site of Boulevard's festival centre has largely turned into a construction site this year. This forced the organisers to move to Zuiderpark. Although this is a bit outside the city centre, it is much more spacious and green than the Parade square. It gives the festival a nice feeling of air, space and proximity to nature.

Half wolf and half woman

The makers also seek proximity to nature in some of the performances at the festival. For instance, La loba by musical theatre makers Timo Tembuyser and Hélène Vrijdag from the eponymous Native American-myth about an old, hairy woman who collects bones and communicates mainly through animal sounds. Once she has collected a complete wolf body, she awakens the animal back to life. Based on a foundation of folklore and nature worship, Tembuyser and Friday build a world of sound, song and animal language.

As in their previous collaboration Hiccup the makers search for form and meaning in the borderland between text theatre and opera. After introducing the story of La loba Tembuyser and Friday conduct a cryptic dialogue with each other, which feels like an orchestra tuning the instruments. They then peel off the different layers of the myth in a few vocal parts. This is not just about the relationship between man and nature but also between man and woman. Sara Schoon's gender fluid costumes are slowly taken off, allowing the performers to shed to a new guise each time.

La loba is at its most interesting when Tembuyser and Friday push the boundaries of the human. They serve each other as instruments to influence the sounds they emit: they drum on each other's backs or chests or move each other's limbs. In a beautiful scene halfway through, Tembuyser's voice searches for a vulture or crow. The distortions required to do so take over his entire body.

Bird sounds

Jimmy Grima seeks to connect with nature in a very different way. Raised in Malta, the theatre-maker focuses on the tradition of bird trapping on that island. For centuries, part of the population has skilled in mimicking bird sounds to catch migratory birds. But in 2018, the practice was banned by the European Union to protect the birds. Grima went in search of the origins of the tradition and its value to practitioners.

Nassaba: Song of a bird however, is also a personal project: Grima's own father is himself an avid bird trapper. The play thus follows two parallel tracks. On the one hand, it is about a disappearing tradition, and on the other, a son's rapprochement with his emotionally rigid father. Grima alternates video footage with excerpts from a scrapbook he kept, taking the audience into both stories.

While this provides fine insights, the two parts also get in each other's way. Both the personal and sociological perspectives remain on the surface. We get to know too little about the history and practicalities of its use, and there is also little focus on how father and son relate to each other. However, the surprising ending is picture-perfect and moving, and is both an ode to age-old knowledge that seems to be lost and to Grima's father himself.

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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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