Het Theaterfestival: trying to offer an opportunity to make up for what you’ve missed

How come I managed to miss this one last year? That’s what I want my brain to think, whenever I’ve been to a performance selected for Het Theaterfestival, the festival for which the best Flemish and Dutch theatre (and dance) performances of the past year are picked by a jury. This year the festival takes place in Brussels (Kaaitheater) and for once there wasn’t much controversy over the selected performances. I randomly chose two (Laura Van Dolron’s Sartre zegt sorry and Pieter Ampe & Guilherme Garrido’s Still standing you) over the past few days, and yes, each night I have been thinking: How come

Strictly speaking Still standing you, by Pieter Ampe & Guilherme Garrido, isn’t on the list of Het Theaterfestival. It is one of five performances also selected by this year’s jury for a new concept: Circuit X, a quality label for performances by new talent. The Circuit X performances will later on be presented at several smaller Flemish theatres.

Jurassic Park meets Puppetry of The Penis. That might be the right way to describe this hilarious, over the top performance by these two dancers. No music, no decor. Just two guys in a never-ending amicable wrestling game. They bump into each other and throw each other on the floor. They growl as if they were dinosaurs, sitting on each other’s shoulders, they strut and start to sweat more and more. At one point they strip, first showing off their Superman underwear, but when the briefs are gone they childishly even use each other’s willies to play with. Just too bad the performance takes too long. In the end it seems as if they have run out of ideas.

Stand up philosophy, those are the words people most often use to describe Laura van Dolron’s performances. But real philosophers will probably be frowning on the way the Dutch actress/theatre director simplifies some theories. Ever since I saw The idiots at Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels, 2009) I’ve become a fan, but nevertheless I managed to miss Sartre zegt sorry (Sartre says sorry). It’s an impressive and touching performance. Van Dolron dizzies her audience with a speedy speech – not really a monologue, since Sartre, the French philosopher she accuses of so many things is on stage too – in which she combines philosophical thoughts, clever observations of the life of fortysomethings and touching personal confessions. Respect.


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