During the Zeeland Nazomerfestival ('Zeeland Late Summer Festival'), characteristic locations near the province's coast literally provide the backdrop for large-scale dance pieces and pure text-based theatre. Both the pieces and the locations inspire and surprise. 'Thanks to the festival, there are Zeeland natives who discover places that they had never been to before'.
This summer, from 27 August through 7 September, the 19th edition of the Zeeland Nazomerfestival will offer a striking amount of diversity, in content as well as the locations where the performances are staged. Henk Schoute, director of Theaterproductiehuis Zeelandia, sees an obvious trend in the theatre world. 'There is the phenomenon of "festivalisation". People in the Netherlands are attending more and more festivals and visiting the theatre less frequently. Audiences want unique performances at unique locations. Our festival meets that need well'.
The Zeeland Nazomerfestival appears to have a lot in common with Oerol, with performances at characteristic locations near the Zeeland coast. 'But the major difference is that we produce the performances ourselves and do not buy any productions. There is a huge variety of locations here and we change it up every year. In addition, concerts by popular artists are held in the festival heart in Middelburg. These draw a slightly younger audience; the performances attract a somewhat more educated and more culturally focused audience'. According to Schoute, the organisation closely looks at the surroundings to determine the festival content. 'Our visitors have a connection with Zeeland. Two-thirds are Zeeland natives. Given the glaring lack of dance performances here, for example, we make a point of including them in our programme'.
Although Zeelandia produces all of the performances, they differ greatly in terms of style and genre. From pure text-based theatre to large-scale dance and music pieces. 'There is a clear link between content and location in everything we perform', said Alex Mallems, who is the artistic director at Theaterproductiehuis Zeelandia. 'You immediately see this in the opening production, Wie is bang (Who is afraid). We are performing it in Schouwburg Middelburg because the story actually takes place on the stage of a theatre.
The outdoor locations are unique, too, such as Fort Ellewoutsdijk, a defence from 1839. The play Winterreise (Winter Journey) will be performed here. 'It's about the madness of war', said Mallems. It is a spectacular piece that is performed on an 80 metre-wide stage, with a soprano who sings songs by Schubert as Middelburg artist Piet Dieleman uses paint, clay, chalk and branches to create works of art in real time. 'Fort Ellewoutsdijk was built around the time Belgium and the Netherlands split in order to defend the river Scheldt from the Belgians. But by the time the fort was finished, a truce had been reached, meaning the fort never really served a purpose. For me, it's an artistic metaphor for the senselessness of war and we created this production based on that. Every location must offer extra incentive to attend the performance. When we perform in other places, other themes are addressed; that's why there is so much variation'.
“The festival explains a lot about the province and its history on the basis of the locations. It's like a journey of discovery”Alex Mallems
The festival explains a lot about the province and its history on the basis of the locations. 'It's like a journey of discovery', said Alex Mallems. 'There are Zeeland natives who say that thanks to the festival they discover places they had never been to before'. We sometimes perform in places that are not usually open to the public. Such as the Machinefabriek in Vlissingen, which is 100 years old – actual industrial heritage, with impressively high ceilings. The audience's experience is a very important factor in our performances. A famous actor or director is the third or fourth reason to go to the theatre here; the location and the theme of the piece are more important'. Schoute nodded in agreement. 'These are not performances that can be seen everywhere; in order to experience them, you have to come to Zeeland'.