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It must have been quite a surprise to the small, obscure flies that call the Botanic Garden Zuidas home. On 4 September 2020, they witnessed how it was being transformed into an open-air theatre for the first performances of the Huiskamerfestival (‘Living Room Festival’).

Usually the festival organises acts in living rooms throughout the city. This year, the organisation had to look for larger locations in order to have a corona-proof programme. And this was found amidst tropical bushes, in the green oasis alongside the Amsterdam UMC Imaging Centre at the Van der Boechorststraat.

Homely atmosphere

And this means that on Friday night at 19:00 o’clock 33 people, throughout the botanical garden, are ready for a sold-out night of cabaret. Divided into sets of two seats they watch the stage where carpets, weird statues and a houseplant with dead extremities create what a visitor describes as ‘quite a homely atmosphere’. Having a giant sage plant at your left feet and looking at the back of a hospital on your right only makes this living room even more atmospheric. It is such a lovely, concealed location that you almost forget you are sitting here because it is not possible somewhere else.

Kirsten van Teijn at the festival
Mohammad Alzoabi

Try-out

For most of the visitors and artists these are the first performances in months. That is why both Kirsten van Teijn and Pieter Jouke are giving a try-out of a show that they later want to perform in theatres during the cultural season. So, sometimes, there is a bit of awkward material and some exploring to discover what jokes are a success, but also occasionally being quite pleased that something works well. Both their performances are interrupted by an overflying trauma helicopter. It breaks the ice and creates an open bond between the artist and the audience.

Duo n00b

The duo n00b can perform without interruptions. Laura Bakker and Isabelle Kafando are in the fourth year of the minor arts academy but give a highly convincing opening show. Half an hour filled to the brim with singing, dancing and humour that polish the mirror in which you, as a visitor, look at your own concerns and uncertainties.

Out and about at a 1.5-metre distance
Mohammad Alzoabi

Pieter Jouke

Where Van Teijn alternates her story with singing, the show of Pieter Jouke relies on stand-up comedy and poetry. At times it is definitely funny, but it also appears to be a challenge. A show full of punch lines does, perhaps, work a bit better in a full and warmed-up comedy café than in a Botanical Garden, set up as spaciously as possible, early on a Friday night.

Social distancing

Yet this early night as a whole feels very successful. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy performances again, everything was organised with attention and enthusiasm and to many, the festival appears to be a lovely introduction to this green location in the Zuidas. You would quite enjoy chatting about it whilst enjoying a drink at the bar, but unfortunately a second round of performances for a new audience follows almost immediately. All the space is needed again to socially distance.

The Botanical Garden Zuidas was a perfect fit for the festival
Mohammad Alzoabi

Workshops en rondleidingen

After this opening night, the Huiskamerfestival tours the city with other artists in other districts. On Saturday, it performed in the Q-Factory in East, Sunday in the Tolhuistuin in North, the concluding performances in West at the end of the week. The Saturday programme in De Krakeling has already been sold out, but some tickets are still available for the show in De Hallen on Friday. Whether there will be a tent between the camelias and cacti again next year, is very doubtful. But fortunately, you can also visit the Botanical Garden Zuidas for workshops and tours.

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