Whether it could be a little less superficial was the question from an audience member halfway through the first part of The Utility's Great Holiday Show. Greg Nottrot, in the role of quizmaster of this pastiche on the great 1980s television show, promises there will be another layer. Because he is obliged to, since he gets subsidy.
Welcome to Leidsche Rijn Centrum, where a miracle of warmth has descended on a few empty shop spaces. The NUT, a company I have been a fan of since its inception, I won't deny it, closes a year full of performances about money with a show that brings together all the goodness of theatre with the better cuisine.
Ideal for newcomers
To start with, almost all of Het NUT's performances are accompanied by a meal at long tables. The best way to mingle with acquaintances and meet new friends. That it might also be a method to silence critics with a glass of wine or two? Could be. The fact remains that theatre is no longer a stand-alone event.
Visiting a performance by Het Nut is more like a festival experience than a visit to a distinguished theatre with its own customs and standards. Especially for newcomers, this choice by Het NUT is threshold-reducing. So the fact that Utrecht's Stadsschouwburg, itself an ambitious restaurant empire, is co-producing this show is nice. There could probably also be more long beer tables in those big foyers.
How Masmeijer became M.
And then there is the performance itself. Sufficiently gnarly set-up to make it unpretentious without sacrificing meaning. Because of its references to the NCRV Holiday Show and especially its legendary host Frank Masmeijer, the pre-publicity made it to all the national media, right up to Shownieuws. For those who have been under a rock for the past few years: Masmeijer was fired from NCRV for letting friends win, started a hospitality empire and was suddenly Frank M., the drug criminal. He has now mended his ways and is touring the schnabbing circuit with fun Dutch tunes.
In this show, in which his friends can also win very nice prizes, Nottrot tells that he was a fan of Frank Masmeijer as a child. In preparation for this show, he contacted his fallen idol several times, verging on stalkerish. Who responded little eagerly.
A good poem
And why all that? Giving too much away is no fun, of course, but the show does indeed take a turn towards depth between main and dessert. Nottrot spins on, in an echo of the way others also spin on when the pressures of money, friends and success become too much. And all because no one takes the time to read a good poem anymore.
And Frank? He can come and watch in peace, because he comes off well. Without The Utility tackling him with silk gloves. Man is fallible. And no student party can go on without Dutch-language work like Masmeijer's. There are golden times ahead.