After a wait of 1,099 days, it was back at last: The Brabantsedag Heeze. The crowds were also back to enjoy the largest theatre parade of the year. The 63rd edition of the cultural-historical parade in Heeze was a stunning display of artistic talent, dedicated acting and technological ingenuity.
Theme ‘met verve’
The theme, ‘met verve’, a play on words combining the Dutch words for panache and paint, asked the contenders to choose a painting by an artist from The Duchy of Brabant (Dutch or Belgian) and use that as their inspiration. So, rather than creating a tableau vivant, the groups had to find a way to translate the theme of their chosen painting into a piece of mobile theatre.
The 16 groups who had taken up the challenge expressed their theme on, in front of and behind their towering floats, with impressive constructions and amateur theatricals: entertaining, funny, occasionally moving. Striking this year was the introduction of current issues touched upon by some of the groups, such as online culture and the environment.
After the intense and immense work that has gone into these floats, it is hard to accept that they will all be taken apart after the parade. The response to Van Gogh’s painting ‘Wheatfield with Crows’, for example, built by Vriendenkring Schenkels, was chilling in its menacing metres-high troupe with piercing eyes and flapping wings. Or the stunning forest built by Vriendenkring Haisjô, beautifully painted and inhabited by birds and deer.
The theatrical experience also depends on the acting, the music and the costumes. The group of devils (Het Zij Zo) following the Hieronymus Bosch float had been cleverly transformed into black, goggle-eyed and hunch-backed creeps. Or the members of Vriendenkring De Rooie Hoek, who transformed from immobile Frans Hals portraits into lively individuals expressing their personalities to the watching crowds. And just imagine: these actors are all amateurs!
Third prize went to the many layered performance by De Lambrekvrienden, who addressed the threat of illegal dumping in the nature reserve De Peel. Second prize was for Ge Wit ’t Oit Noit Nie with ‘Een gretige zoektocht naar goud’ (a frantic search for gold), displaying a huge alchemist’s laboratory. But Vriendenkring De Rijten was the absolute overall winner, awarded first prize by the public, the press, the Heeze shopkeepers association, and the prize for unique artistic achievement. Their magical and moving interpretation of ‘Kleine man met groot speelgoed’ (Big man with small toys) by Jan Cobbaert made many wipe away a tear or two.
The parade is also eminently accessible for internationals. Not only is the expressive acting only minimally dependent on spoken text, the print guide also includes a brief English explanation of each team’s float, so that the intentions of the groups are clear and audiences understand fully what they are watching. Edition 64 is on August 27th.