Impression of Holland Festival 2014
The last edition of the Holland Festival under the artistic direction of Pierre Audi was one of the largest, most diverse and best attended ever. The programme consisted of a mix of ‘familiar faces’ from Audi’s ten years’ tenure (De Keersmaeker, Goebbels, Kentridge) and a number of exciting new names (Ben Frost, Trajal Harrell). With the accessible theatre production War Horse the festival attracted a wider audience. The hard-core festival regulars were indulged with Matthew Barney’s film epic River of Fundament and a Luigi Nono trilogy at the Gashouder. So, June was, yet again, a real Holland Festival month, not least because of the extensive media attention brought about by this being Pierre Audi’s last festival. The opening performance Vortex Temporum was the overture to a festival in which the dance programme played a prominent part. The ultimate convergence of watching and listening symbolised what Audi was always striving for when programming the festival. William Forsythe, who will be leaving his company at the end of this season, presented The Returns, a sharp and witty pastiche of the art world, in which the dancers displayed incredible skill and talent for improvisation. Alain Platel was commissioned to create a theatrical setting for a hybrid concert of baroque arias and contemporary Congolese pop music by Serge Kakudji and ten extremely talented and versatile ‘sapeurs’ from Congo. The sophisticated balance between Western and non-Western music and the ready rapport between the performers and the audience made Coup Fatal into an electrifying experience. As well as staging performances by familiar names such as Lemi Ponifasio, Krzysztof Pastor with Dutch National Ballet and Sol León and Paul Lightfoot with NDT 1 (on location at the Food Center in the west of Amsterdam), the festival also introduced choreographer Trajal Harrell, who presented his ‘made-to-measure’-version of Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure) / Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M). In this work, Harrell explored in depth two widely differing genres: modern dance from the 1970’s and voguing. Performing at the Teijin Auditorum of the Stedelijk Museum, his company showed what a meeting between the two might have produced, generously referring in dance as well as in music to the heyday of these two movements. In this farewell year for Pierre Audi, the theatre programme offered a rich selection of old masters (both directors and writers) as well as young talent. Peter Brook, one of Audi’s great models, presented The Valley of Astonishment. Considering he’s in his senior years, this might well be his last work. It showed with absolute clarity what his aims over all these years have been: the empty space and the vital role played by his actors, who were all part of the loyal group of people around him. With Playing Cards: spades the festival responded to the growing popularity of large-scale performances with high levels of technical ingenuity. An extraordinary set design also played a major part in Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant, starring Bibiane Beglau. Current political issues made a real impact in Die Schutzbefohlenen by Elfriede Jelinek and Nicolas Stemann; a group of asylum seekers from the Amsterdam Vluchtgarage (an abandoned garage in the city which they have turned into a squat) went on stage confronting the audience with an extremely painful reality. Dutch theatre company De Warme Winkel made their first appearance at the festival with Gavrilo Princip, a co-production with the festival. After last year’s runaway success of The Wild Duck, Simon Stone returned with a dynamic, 50 At EYE, the festival presented the majestic epic film River of Fundament by visual artist Matthew Barney and composer Jonathan Bepler. In 2012, the Holland Festival had already hosted a week-long residency for Barney and Bepler to work on a number of scenes and the soundtrack for this project. The film shows American writer Norman Mailer reincarnating twice and being buried twice. The project is the culmination of the recordings of three live performances plus scripted and improvised scenes, which combined have created a new American mythology. As usual in connection with the performances, the audience were invited to take part in the extensive and mostly free Context programme, including introductions, ‘meet the artist’ events, lectures and workshops – ranging from singer songwriting to vogue dancing. This year’s free lunch-time concerts in the underpass of the Rijksmuseum were exclusively dedicated to Luigi Nono, with Sonology students performing their own reflections on Nono’s oeuvre. Festival hotel DoubleTree by Hilton’s SkyLounge hosted three very popular consecutive Saturday night performances. In particular the Vogue Ball, organised in connection with Trajal Harrell’s performance Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (M2M), attracted a mixed audience with many new faces. Some of the themes and subjects featured in the festival were addressed in a light, easy to digest programme, including two India Picnics, a Poetry Pub Crawl dedicated to sufi poets and three lunch-time lectures entitled Broodje Kennis (Science Sandwich) at Spui25. Director of Die Schutzbefohlenen Nicolas Stemann worked with Dutch theatre makers on a programme of ‘theatre and current affairs’, culminating in an impressive presentation involving the refugees who had performed in Die Schutzbefohlenen. Pierre Audi concluded his last edition of the festival with a work of his own: commissioned by the festival, the Greek- Dutch composer Calliope Tsoupaki wrote the oratorium Oidípous, which had its world premiere at the festival in a mise-enespace by Audi. The piece was performed by the Netherlands Bach Society, performing an evening-long contemporary work for the first time. The performance combined a number of elements which have been fundamental to the festival in the last ten years: advancement of new forms of music theatre, commissioning Dutch composers and linking tradition and innovation. Thus, Oidípous was a fitting finale – not only of this festival, but of the whole of the Audi era.