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In Enschede, I realised again how important own actors are for a city theatre

It is one of the worst guilty pleasures that I am rich in. Egg salad from the better-filled mayonnaise manufacturer from Twente, with a good second place for their tuna salad. I can't get enough of those. And now let them have both of those on the table at Het Kerstdiner in Theater Kleine Willem in Enschede. Chic is different, but in the land of textile barons and unemployed weavers, they have different ideas of chic than in the Randstad anyway.

The Christmas Dinner is a show from the quiver of the Wilminktheatre, Enschede's city theatre, which in recent years has emerged as an engine of regionally rooted theatre. Grand location theatre in Almelo and a real theatre series about typical Enschede student houses which is now in its third season. Plus summer performances about the Harmonies in the region.

Success gets follow-through

 Great inspiration is former musical producer Gerard Cornelisse, but in the meantime success has produced its own nachwuchs. A young guard is following in his footsteps, without being too opposed to tradition.

A couple of old timers play in this show, where you thus sit at the table with the actors themselves. Laus Steenbeke and Lieneke Leroux carry the performance that promises fresh murder. It would all be a bit more over the top may, but the performance landed perfectly in the packed auditorium at the premiere.

The play is full of mostly playful references to billionaire Sanderink, the eccentric wealthy man and ceo of railway construction company Strukton who lived with his mother until he fell prey to all sorts of marital vicissitudes, with a dubious role for a lady who caused a furore as a would-be IT expert with a spy fetish.

Wilminks Breeding

An important place in this fully packed show, including the house orchestra that originated at the location performances in Almelo, is for 'Wilminks Kweek'. That is a rather prolific musical class of the Wilmink Theatre where musical students from various theatre schools can further professionalise. 

With this programme, Wilminktheatre hopes to keep a new generation of artists committed to itself, and thus to Twente. It succeeds, I understood, and in addition to a growing professional ensemble, it also provides a lasting connection with the audience.

The Wilmink Theatre - with performances in many different venues - actually functions as a city ensemble on an ad hoc basis. For structural subsidy, the productions are perhaps a bit too commercial and bourgeois by Randstad subsidy committee standards at the moment, but what they demonstrate with it is that a city theatre is nothing without its own ensemble. And that Enschede is not in the Randstad, and therefore has other stories to tell.

Subsistence security

In recent decades, many theatre houses exchanged their permanent ensemble of actors for loose-fixed connections with independent creators. It brought flexibility and room for innovation, at the expense of actors' livelihoods. Worse: it broke the link with regular audiences, who mainly look for familiar faces on stage. 

Recently, I sat at the table of a city theatre three times, in Utrecht, Rotterdam and now Enschede. That food and theatre have been intimately connected since the first performances 2,500 years ago is obvious. That eating, playing and watching together is also essential for the social bond between artists and audience became clear to me once more.

It doesn't all have to be fancy, nor does it all have to meet the latest requirements of the subsidisers in The Hague. 

Cross-border theatre

Indeed, in the coming years, art may well be at its own mercy. And thus to the city, the village, the region. This may also cross other borders, because in Twente they now also make theatre in Low Saxon. Then you have an audience that speaks your language from Deventer to Berlin. 

Should the country's borders remain open.

Seen (and tasted): The Christmas Dinner by The Wilmink Theatre. T/m 6 January. Information.

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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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