De Parade, the central square in Den Bosch and the former stopping place of Festival Boulevard, is still undergoing major renovations, but there is nevertheless a festival tent next to a crane. There you can listen to artists every evening, pop musicians such as Steffen Morrison and Sophie Straat, and there is musical theater such as the dramatic Queen of Disco by Rightaboutnowabout disco legend Sylvester.

    Also Able to Fuck Love by Gavin-Viano is infectious music theatre, played in a tent in the Zuiderpark. Gavin-Viano sings his yearning love songs with a youthful elan and a firm Stevie Wonder intonation, which hums with warmth, accompanied by a string quartet and keyboards. In between, he tells how he can confuse sex with love and how he manages to be a ‘sweet’, sweet boy on Tinder. If he keeps his head up, he knows he’s the king of his own life. He shows how sweet he is with a song that agitates against police brutality. You don’t hear this type of protest song more friendly: please don’t shoot him, he sings.

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    Bee Down the Rabbit Hole, a Toneelhuis production, the soundtrack is provided by guitarist Mauro Pawlowski, known as a former member of rock band dEUS but frequently active as a theater musician. Except for the gritty guitar chords, his contribution sounds interchangeable: singing bowls, bird sounds, threatening horns.

    On the stage there is a wooden wall with a window, behind which for 45 minutes nothing can be seen but wooden panels that move, in different sizes and colours. On the side, Benjamin Verdonck pulls strings to move them horizontally or vertically: a traditional technique that the widely acclaimed Flemish theater maker and visual artist often uses in earlier work.

    Also read: Interview with Gavin-Viano: ‘I use humor as a lubricant for the tragedy’

    What you see, for example, is that behind a panel with black diamond, another panel with black diamond appears. Or that panels in shades of brown alternate. There is no visible relationship with the music. After the opening cry: “Down. Down. Does this fall never end?” the performance is wordless. The effect of this abstract installation, with more pretensions than ideas, is soporific.

    Benjamin Verdonck pulls strings to get wooden panels moving in Down the Rabbit Hole.
    Photo Jean Philipse

    Just as pretentious looks Spare Time Work, by the Flemish collective Buren, in which the monotony and dominance of work in life is the subject. Two female performers perform absurd scenes about play and work, and speak abstract texts, in English. Thanks to the slick production, with ingenious costumes and set pieces, it looks visually appealing. The sound processing, including voice-over and distortions, also contribute to a kind of external shine.

    Also read: Interview with Hendrik Kegels (also on Boulevard): ‘I like it when theater offers comfort’

    But there is no substantive idea and the performance drags on slowly. The intended absurdism is saltless and the satire lame. This lackluster performance does not go much further than obligatory cries about routine and injustice.

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