EFFE Laureate – Theaterfestival Boulevard s’Hertogenbosch

8 August, 2017

Location: 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
Director: Viktorien van Hulst
Dates: 2017/08/03 – 2017/08/13
Art Disciplines: Theatre, Dance, Music
Find out more about the festivals on their EFFE Profile and the Theaterfestival Boulevard website.

“The rain cleared and the sun was so bright nobody could see me against it – the cameras were useless,” said Viktorien van Hulst, the Director of Theaterfestival Boulevard. She was talking to me just after speaking at the opening of this year's festival and admitting some relief. Worries about the weather are never far away for a theatre festival, of which a lot takes place in the streets and tents. As the audience is largely local they can stay away when the sun is away.

For a medium size town in the south of The Netherlands, Theaterfestival Boulevard is a major feature in the area's cultural life. As the jury noted, it “has a huge programme and it is innovative but also has an eye for tradition, for young talents and established theatre makers.” 

That huge programme (135 shows over 11 days) means that inevitably it is not possible to see everything but with imagination Theaterfestival Boulevard makes a virtue of the fact. “We have a woman in a tower who sees nothing herself but invites the audience to come and describe the shows to her, and writes down their stories,” Viktorien explains. “Of course, every member of the audience tells a different story.”

Much of the work is in Dutch (or its southern neighbour, Flemish) and the festival has become an important event for professional groups working in that language, enabling them to compare notes and find new collaborators. It also allows them to see theatre from much further afield in different traditions.

“Our international ambitions are growing,” says Viktorien, “to show the difficulties we all face in the world and present these issues in our theatres – also to give our Dutch artists the chance to meet and make contacts with others across the world. We have a lot of politically engaged artists too, who want to share their vision of the world but normally are only able to reach those who already agree with them.”

Theaterfestival Boulevard, as the name suggests, takes place throughout the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch, for  short, or for those who find the pronunciation a mouthful). The festival centre is a large square close to the cathedral where the audience mingle. Viktorien van Hulst is proud both of the size of the audience - “much bigger than usual for this type of work” - and its quality. “We are trying to throw down barriers – of age, money, disability – so that everyone can join. Yet we have more and more cutting edge programmes. But our audience trusts us and they are very eager to share what they think of the work with each other and with the artists.”

By Simon Mundy for EFA