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With Theatre Festival Boulevard looking for a way out of the crisis of two-year restriction #tfboulevard

It was a bit much of a good thing, but the closeness of so many happy people in a small room, with no air conditioning but enthusiastically sweating dancers, was nice to experience. It is called 'Out of the Box' and is being danced and acrobatched together by The100hands from Breda during the Bossche Theatre Festival Boulevard.

A performance for people as young as 6, but so completely as if social distancing never existed. I was there and stayed there. With four pricks and a passed mild infection, I considered myself reasonably safe.

Out of the Box (6+) | Theatre Festival Boulevard

But so that is something to think about at this first festival after two years of restriction and contagion. Are we back to normal? No. Not just because my recovery, too, is much slower than I had hoped. The unhoped-for normal several makers here blatantly demonstrate. Two years of social distance, isolation, restrained banging and then waking up in a world where war suddenly comes very close and a new disease looms.

There are those who imagined otherwise.

Heavy thoughts

Enough reason for depressed thoughts. Werkplaats Van de Woestijne has built an installation of it in Den Bosch. In a glass cabin in the middle of the shopping area, you can first look outside, but then the windows close. In the darkened room, you stare at the stranger opposite you while you hear over speakers the black thoughts spoken by people with depression. It chops.

This project, titled 'The Weight of a Thought' makes you reflect on how dark the thoughts can be of people who look 'ordinary' at first glance, but also at second glance. You hear how the trap of depression closes towards an almost inevitable end, and you experience the helplessness of the partner, the bystander, the friend.

Not a performance for tender souls, and if you know - or are - someone with such thoughts yourself, it's quite intense. It ended with a few kitschy sentences, and while I thought that was a shame on the spot, it did help me feel distance again: it's only art, sort of: the nice boy opposite me won't be jumping in front of a train any time soon.

The weight of a thought | Theatre Festival Boulevard

Lonely men

Those who hopefully won't jump in front of the train either are Oscar Kocken and Lucas de Waard. Two vital midlife men whom no one would think could suffer from loneliness and separation anxiety. Yet they do, and the play '1' they made about it is heartbreakingly beautiful.

I did not expect, for instance, to feel deep pity for a lonely female tree on an island in the South Pacific, but Kocken managed to pull it off. Around it, he and De Waard tell some very personal stories about how loneliness overtook them when suddenly the life in which you can hide that loneliness well came to a halt.

It provided a lesson, as the perpetually rushing happy jerks found out that just once not breaking the silence is much more rewarding than always trying to save the party.

The final image, in which De Waard sinks into silent meditation and Kocken tries to keep his mouth shut in a kind of existential panic is telling, and therefore moving.

1 | Theatre Festival Boulevard


Also very moving are the three quarters of an hour you can spend in the bucket of a real rubbish truck that artist duo Schippers and Van Gucht have parked in the Zuiderpark. In that dark loading bin, we see the discarded toys of an unknown child and hear them arguing among themselves about who was, or still is, the best. This is what impermanence looks like to children and adults, and just before you are directed to the exit of the loading bay, you get another beautiful image in front of you.

De Volle Vuilkar (8+) | Theatre Festival Boulevard

Then back outside, where the Bossche Zuiderpark lies at your feet in a much more open setting than last year, when there was still a big fence around the festival site.

Back then, that was something of an enclave for the happy few, although not as disruptive as at the travelling festival De Parade, which travels the country every summer as a gated community for the culturally driven. That the new management of Theatre Festival Boulevard has removed the fences is not only nice for local residents who thus keep their favourite place to walk the dogs, it also gives more air: there is always an entrance, and an exit.

Many outputs

Just outside the centre of the loose festival grounds is a magical poplar circle that serves as a natural theatre. In it, I saw the most joyous performance yet: Exit by Piet van Dycke. It is a circus act with acrobatics and dance, but also five slamming doors that evoke memories of days gone by, when theatre comedies knew how to turn the inevitable door act (where is the cuckolded husband, the lover, the angry neighbour?) into a true art form.

Exit is about getting in and getting out, but also about united force and flying. Main lesson: there is always an exit. If one door closes, four others can always open, even if it doesn't always seem that way.

EXIT | Theatre Festival Boulevard

Get home safely after all. By train.

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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