“We really do everything we can to brighten up your life,” says a nurse to an elderly woman, referring to a cherry in her bowl of custard. The old woman is not impressed. Custard? “Whether hot vomit slides down your throat.”
Such banal dialogues typify the new stage text Water & Fire by Don Duyns. He wrote the first National Theater Text, a new initiative of the National Theater Weekend. The organization will annually ask a different author to write a play that is in line with the theme of the Boekenweek.
The intention is that the piece will be finished at the end of January, during The National Theater Weekend, is performed in halls throughout the Netherlands, played by various (local) theater companies and amateur groups. The Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds makes a modest budget available for this. The text is made available to everyone for free and no performance rights have to be paid to perform it.
Duyns’ piece is set in and around a ‘rather sad multifunctional community center, where clothes are collected, where the neighborhood barbecue takes place and where clumsy bands rape their songs’, according to one of the characters. At the presentation in the Kunstlinie in Almere, Duyns himself called it a “cross-section of the Netherlands”, a mini-society in which ambition, mourning, activism and love compete for priority. According to him, the piece can be played by large ensembles, but also by two players. “Although you have to work very experimentally.”
Theme: ‘Two struggle’
Duyns is one of the most frequently performed Dutch playwrights. He is best known to the general public for the popular family performances he made with Pieter Kramer for Theater Rotterdam (formerly Rotheater), but he has also written dozens of other plays. He didn’t have a hard time with ‘Two Fights’, the theme of the past Boekenweek. Duyns: „Perhaps it is an exciting theme in prose, but theater requires two-sidedness. There is a clash in every dialogue.”
Which playwright will be allowed to focus on the Boekenweek theme ‘The first love’ next year will be announced in January. The person then has until September to deliver a play, so that companies have enough time to study it before January.