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#Zomergasten 2023#5 was the three and a half television nights with Theo Maassen on which women did not exist.

Nice how things coincide, on 'Summer Chairs'. Last week, I reported on the BBC breakfast show's Red Bench, and what a torture device it is. On Sunday 20 August, an almost exact equivalent of that semi-circular Red Bank came along in Summer Guests with Kamagurka. This Red Bench was in a Flemish theatre with Johan Anthierens, who hosted Koot&Bie in his 1978 show 'Bij Nader Inzien', who at their leisure disrupted the rather dull programme.

Nice of course, but of course the obsessed couch potato in me immediately saw why that programme with that version of that Red Sofa was doomed to fail: the furniture was too comfortable. Everyone hunkered down, the energy somewhere in the rear: that's asking for sleep-inducing television.

Fine time taken

In that story I defended still the seats in the Muziekgebouw, the place where 'Summer guests' has settled this year. I thought they did have the right rigour that the BBC has developed for that breakfast show. A rigour that the guests put on their qui vive let stay.

But alas, Luc Zeebroek, aka Kamagurka, the absurdist cartoonist I deeply admire, immediately showed that the chairs were too comfortable. Deliciously modestly Belgian, he sat slumped over contributing to an intensely enjoyable evening with Theo Maassen. Only to spring up at the task of making his own drawing. Which he took his time for.

'Zomergasten' is there for slow television on Sunday nights, in a world where a three-second pause is reported directly to the top bosses via the ratings boxes. Maassen does dare to drop those silences, and that is the biggest innovation he brings with him. As an interviewer, he gives his guests space, which is refreshing in a world where more and more people are dropping out due to overexcitement.

Rikkie and Slingertje

But it can also get too easy. There was a time when every Zomergasten broadcast started with at least one excerpt from the 1960s afternoon programme De Verrekijker, Rikkie en Slingertje or Paulus de Boskabouter. It became so predictable that editors gently changed the formula. Gone was the look back at TV from the guest's childhood. Zomergasten is now a biography via television programmes that the guest could have seen, and perhaps has seen, but which have been dug up from the bowels of the medium thanks to the editors. That's why it takes a good six months of preparation.

It does make the 'spontaneity' of the live broadcast very comfortable. The well-prepared guest and finely-read host guarantee a good conversation. Maassen only deviated from this formula with Khadija Arib, by subjecting her to cross-examination, because he did not grant the former parliament speaker the story she had prepared. Embarrassing television, and therefore good for the 'half' in the headline of this story.

A womanless universe

Now, with Kamagurka, the evening was not an inconvenience. Was that discomfort necessary? Maybe it was anyway. However nicely the conversation ran, how impressive it became near the end with the stories surrounding Charlie Hebdo. Actually, it stood out mainly because there, for the first time, a woman was on screen for longer, with a gruesome story about how she opened the door to the terrorists who came to slaughter the satirical weekly's editors.

Otherwise, no thinking, creative, writing or drawing women during these 'Summer Guests'. Apparently, they play no defining role in Kamagurka's life. This does make the question, in which universe exactly this master of disruptive art lives, relevant. Of course, that is also a question a man will never ask another man, at least not in the world of Kamagurka and Theo Maassen.

Alida Dors faces tough task

Next week, in the last broadcast of this season, Theo Maassen receives theatre maker Alida Dors. She has been artistic director of Theatre Rotterdam for a few years. That 'house' has been in crisis for years thanks to a city council that turned its ears first to populists, and then to tax-dodging patron Van der Vorm, who sees no bread in theatre, but did gift the city a beautiful statue of a young black woman.

Last year, Dors opened the theatre season with an argument as flaming as it is swinging. Could Maassen give her the chance to do the same with this year's television season? It will be close.

(In this video, a hint that the filming location for Zomergasten may well have been chosen specifically with Alida Dors' performance in mind).

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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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