John Buijsman and Helmert Woudenberg make a very funny duo. Buijsman the archetypal Rotterdammer, certainly also in terms of tongue, but also the actor who is role-steady, playing distinct characters. In The Recreants, a play he created for and about his own holiday complex in Hoek van Holland, he performs together with Helmert Woudenberg. The inventor of continuous improvisation has a casualness in his playing where you sometimes think he is not quite there with his head, but that is pretence.
As a combination, in this beautiful, moving and also topical play about allotments that have to make way for big business, it works beautifully. The eternally rescuing Buijsman opposite the seemingly lethargic Woudenberg: it grazes and chafes and that creates warmth between the two.
The play will also be seen at Theatre Festival Boulevard, where king poodle Kees, the sweetest theatre dog ever, will once again keep on stage all the peace that the two men lack in their lives. Whether this play, which was more of an occasional thing for the really existing cottage complex it is about, will be seen more often: programmers, make a move.
Also from Rotterdam is Gery Mendes. He is part of the large group of Rotterdammers with Cape Verdean roots. A group that is rarely in the news, and about which even Rotterdam-born people like me know remarkably little. A shame, because certainly the music from the lonely island state in the Atlantic is world-class. Not only the well-known Cesaria Evora comes from there, it is also the land of the Morna, a melancholic form of Portuguese Fado, made big by Ildo Lobo.
And so now there is Gery Mendes. He has a Rotterdam hip-hop past and is bursting with the melancholy that you apparently get in Cape Verde through drinking water. In Borboletas, which I also saw at the Boulevard Theatre Festival, he tells a heartbreakingly beautiful story about the bond with his father, and his struggle with the colonial past that also determined his life.
Mendes is a gifted storyteller and singer, and he has found a perfect environment in the universe that Musical Theatre Company Orkater created for new creators to make his art just a little sharper than usual. Because it would be so easy to linger on that beautiful music, which even in the uptempo dance numbers still carries a melancholy that will make you weep: Mendes, with his director Benji Reid, knows how to take it to the next level.
The play is still touring, so grab your chance.