She fights sexual harassment and rape on stage

Jan Versweifeld

It’s unusual smells that meet you when you enter the theatre: cow dung, hay, stable smells. The topics covered by the International Theater Amsterdam (ITA) in “My Dear Favourite” are nothing out of the ordinary. Marek Lucas Regnild wrote a book about the forbidden relationship between a veterinarian and a 14-year-old girl. A story full of sharp scenes.

These are the times when transgressive behavior is in the spotlight throughout society, and especially in the art world. A so-called intimacy coordinator helps actors with intimate scenes. In the lead roles: 23-year-old debutant Evge Badenburg and star actor Hans Kesting.

“The scenes can go so far with the help of the intimacy coordinator, without affecting myself,” says the Badenburg actress. This mainly concerns extreme sexual violence, rape scenes, in the performance.

in the bathroom

Intimacy coordinator Zarah Bracht explains, “This is something that everyone finds a little exciting up front and then it’s very important that we fully discuss what exactly the procedures are, but also what the motivations of both characters are.” “It is always up to the actor to indicate how far he wants to go.” She also supervises the choreography of a scene. “Everything you can think of to make it safe for the actors and at the same time protect the beauty and quality of the scene.”

For example, she cites a scene in which a girl takes a bath naked and the Badenburg actress prefers not to show the front of her body. “Then we came up with the solution to show her from behind. The choreography was put together in such a way that when you turn around and sit down, you can’t see what you don’t want to reveal,” says Bracht, who believes the intimacy coordinator can accurately ensure that actors can go on smoothly. Intrinsic in challenging topics such as rape, pedophilia, incest and sexual violence.

There are real cows on the stage: Dora and Trix. Director Ivo van Hove wants everything to be as realistic as possible, so the smell of cow dung reeks regularly.

Cows Dora and Trix, for a true farmhouse feel

Director Ivo van Hove loved the book My Dear Favourite. In English they say the sum confuse. Someone could give such an accurate description of a forbidden love, a forbidden relationship gone awry, by the way. Step by step, with a lot of empathy, with a lot of ambivalence, without judgment.”

Van Hove says that art also exists to display extreme themes. “Art, too, is to look at the beast we can be up against. And in this case, Marek Lukas Rijnfeld does it in a very special way. Because this story is not just a story about an outrageous relationship, but it also contains many beautiful things.”

For example, the relationship between a girl and a vet starts out sweet and honest at first, but later deviates into behaviors of serious transgressions. Van Hove: “Rape in the book even multiple rape.”

The vet is Kurt, a traumatized man. “He himself was abused by his mother at a young age. He taught himself that it was only safe to look at little girls and be a bystander, because as a bystander he couldn’t be, I quote, ‘sinful and dirty,'” says actor Kesting.

The actor had read the audiobook earlier, and hoped that one day he would be allowed to play Kurt. “The great thing about Kurt’s character is that he’s not a bad guy. He’s convinced in his love for her, but he also knows that love is very mature. He wants to heal her, but in the end it breaks her.”

Pain and sadness

The girl is as damaged as Kurt. She lost her sister and the mother of the family left the family. She is left with her father and another brother, who does not understand her. She was left to her fate. Nobody explains anything to her, so she loses herself in her huge fantasy world.

Fantasy dare to share with the vet. “He listens to her, they have so much love for each other. It’s very special that despite the age difference, this love is so great,” says Badenburg. “But during the play you discover how much pain and sadness you really feel.”

Your vet abuses this vulnerability. Badenberg: “The relationship only gets more terrible because he’s there for her at that moment in her life. And that’s where things go wrong. Kurt pushes the boundaries in all kinds of ways, mentally and physically. He knows exactly how to make her play.”

face physically

Is director Van Hove worried about potential negative reactions to the play, given the heavy themes? “I never care about possible reactions. I can only do my job well as a director, and put on stage as best the writer had in mind.”

But where people can still put a book down, Van Hove says, they will have to succumb to the violence of the theater in the auditorium. “In theater we go on without interruption. The intensity is that you physically encounter it very close, not only in your imagination, but also physically.”

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