Utrecht Theatre Kikker
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We mentioned the Kikker theatre a few months ago when telling you about English language productions at Utrecht Theatres. Today we are lucky enough to speak with Director Harm Lambers who tells us about the work he does at the theatre and about what we can look forward to into the New Year.
Harm Lambers is the director of Theater Kikker and Podium Hoge Woerd in Utrecht. He is 62 years old, and married to Petra. He has two adult sons, David and Tim. Harm lives in the Zijdebalen area near the centre of Utrecht. He told me:
In a way my job equals my main hobby: visiting theatre.
He also likes to read, mainly about Dutch history of the 17th and 19th centuries.
Originally Harm is from Breda, but has lived in Utrecht since 1975 when he came here to study. He now regards himself as a chauvinistic citizen of the most beautiful and dynamic town in the country, Utrecht!
Tell us about the history of the Kikker theatre.
“Theater Kikker was founded in 1972 by members of the Utrechts Studenten Corps. Originally it was situated on the attic of their building at Janskerkhof. It moved to our present location at the Ganzenmarkt in 1980 with one small theatre hall and a bar. Twenty years later the theatre was expanded with a second, bigger hall and a new foyer. In the course of the years the theatre developed from an organization mainly run by volunteers to a professional organization. The program also gained importance. Currently we host about three hundred performances per season. Since 2015 Theater Kikker is also responsible for a second venue: Podium Hoge Woerd in the new city district Leidsche Rijn.”
Is it true how it got its name?
“As far as I know the name refers to the verb ‘kikkeren’, which means something like crouching down and jumping around like a ‘kikker’ (frog). It was a well known (but not very subtle) ritual to induct new members of the Student Corps. The original Theater Kikker was situated in the room where this ritual took place.”
Tell us a bit about your work at the theatre.
“I am the general director, responsible for the business-side as well as the program of both our theatres. This means that in one day I can occupy myself with budgeting, talking to theatre makers and writing a policy plan for the years to come. So, never a dull moment… ”
How did you get into this job?
“I applied for the job in 2001. At that time I had some experience as a business leader at a theatre company in Rotterdam. The profession of director was new for me. But I turned out to be a quick student.”
How many of the staff are volunteers?
“We still have about 25 volunteers at Theater Kikker, mainly for assistance at the bar and at the box office. At Podium Hoge Woerd we have about 20 volunteers as theatre hosts and at the box office as well.”
How do you decide upon which plays to perform and how many are in English?
“As we often put it, we don’t just programme shows or performances, we programme theatre makers. That is, directors, choreographers or companies that work as a collective. We follow their work in continuity so that we can build a growing audience for them. We scout intensively to select young theatre makers we think are interesting to connect to our theatre. Especially among young theatre makers who prefer the use of image, music or movement above the use of language. To enjoy their work, a knowledge of the Dutch language is not necessary. Some other performances are in English. I estimate that 20% of our programme is, as we call it, ‘Language No Problem.’ We have a special page on our website with this LNP program.”
Does Utrecht inspire you?
“It does! I love to feel the history of ages in the city centre as much as I love the young dynamic feel in a town with a population that is on average the youngest in the country. So, Utrecht fits me better and better, being old itself, as I am by now, but still new and young, as I hope to stay.”
Does working at the theatre inspire you?
“It very much does. It is a privilege to be part of a domain where people try to make the world a little more beautiful and meaningful.”
Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?
“I really love the quiet of the Nieuwegracht. Except for the cars that are parked there, which is a shame, time seems to have stood still for ages.”
Is enough money spent on the creative arts by the municipality?
“For the arts Utrecht has always been a rather generous government. In local politics you very seldom hear that grants for the arts are wasted money. Having said this, for the next decade more money is needed to keep up with the growth of the city. The more international the character of Utrecht becomes also demands extra efforts so that expats, foreign students and tourists can find something to their liking. I think the municipality should be more ambitious than it seems to be. So, I am a bit worried for the future.”
Do you think that Utrecht becoming a UNESCO city of literature will inspire a new generation of playwrights?
“I am not sure there will be a connection, but of course, having this UNESCO status will not hurt. It is something to be proud of. And the local arts school, HKU, has a blooming department for writing students that produces many talented playwrights already.”
What plays are coming up at Kikker in the near future and which would suit the English speaking audience?
“To mention just a few: on 17 and 18 December two theatre companies combine their forces in ‘Pointless International,’ a tribute to nineteenth century clowns.
On 25 and 26 January Dance company Shifft of Utrecht presents their latest piece ‘Quite Discontinuous’ that was very well received by the press.
then there is a very special performance called ‘Bonanza’ by the Flemish company Berlin, a multiscreen cinematic portrait of an abandoned mining town in The Rocky Mountains. It is shown on 1 and 2 February.”
For all of the Kikker Theatre programme see here.