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22 maart 2023 | Nieuws

Joep Hendrikx: ‘With poetry you can go anywhere’

The prize really took Joep by surprise – he hadn’t expected it at all. But it’s a tremendous piece of good luck for the Poezieboys. Joep and his fellow-Poezieboy  Jos Nargy (who in 2018 won the Piket Prize in the same category) are embracing the future with spirit and confidence. “With poetry you can go anywhere,” says Joep.

Transitional phase

Joep has put the cash prize into a savings account. “For when it would genuinely come in useful – the moment that I feel, Yes now!,” he says. And that moment isn’t there yet. The Poezieboys find themselves in a kind of transitional phase. “For about seven years we worked under the wing of the National Theatre, but last year Coproducers, the Dutch platform for studio theatres, selected us for three seasons of additional performing opportunities and financial support. So all of a sudden we are more of ‘a business’ with more staff and more possibilities. The fact that Coproducers selected us also plays a role when approaching other funds. It opens up additional prospects.” On Friday 31 March there will be another  Poeziebar XL at the Royal Theatre in The Hague. “We do a Poeziebar in studio theatre Zaal 3 every month,” Joep explains. “For Poeziebar XL we do what we always do, but on a larger scale. We have invited eight really good poets!” In June the Poezieboys will be going to the Oerol Festival with poet and performer Joost Oomen, and immediately after that De Parade starts.

‘Without characters’

In its report the Piket jury described the presentation of poetry as ‘a type of play without characters’ – an intriguing description. What does Joep think? “Yes, it’s not like playing Shakespeare. We can create the context, the story, ourselves. With poetry you can go anywhere,” he says. “Selecting our textual material is the hardest job and takes most time. Why this poet? And why this poet now? This is what shapes our performance. In addition, we not only need time to create a new performance, but also to really let go of the previous one. Of course we also talk about the interpretation of each of the poems. What does it need? How can we make it show up well? We look at the poem’s words, at its language, and experiment with the delivery. We try to find out what works best to get the poem across. Should we add a costume or not? Should we add video material?”

Russian poets

This summer the Poezieboys will focus on the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca and the question of whether a poet may be political or not. “García Lorca toured the country with a group of theatre students, taking the theatre to small villages by staging plays on a wagon, as they did in the Middle Ages,” Joep explains. “He called it ‘the theatre below the sand’. For him, this was the real theatre. We want to bring this back to life.” A performance featuring the French writer Georges Perec is on the programme for next year. The Poezieboys cast their net wide, but Joep has a soft spot for Russian poets; they dedicated a whole performance to Daniil Charms and at last year’s award ceremony Joep recited a poem by Boris Ryzhy. Russian poets? “Yeah, it’s hard,” Joep admits. “The poets I admire have nothing to do with the present situation. Moreover, in their own time they were often controversial. We shouldn’t forget that a lot of Russian poetry has its origins in repression and resistance.” He finds it regrettable that it’s a sore subject now.

In Dutch

The Poezieboys like to look beyond the Dutch borders, but their performances are always in Dutch. “Yes, we invariably work with translations. After all, Dutch is the only language that allows you to detect every nuance; the language that touches you most, deepest. There’s a lot of change in the art landscape and we think it’s important to keep reflecting on what happens. But the most important thing is to do whatever benefits the arts and to continue the discussion.”

Main photo: Hessel Waalewijn
Photo’s slideshow: Gordon Meuleman
Text: Anna Beerens