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the wood

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duration 1:50
premiere 04 Nov 2018


As a child, Jeroen Brouwers spends time in a Japanese POW camp in Indonesia. After the war, he is sent to boarding school in the Netherlands. It’s a prison camp and a concentration camp rolled into one. In his early novel Sunken red, he writes: ‘I do not understand the fundamental difference between a Japanese camp guard and a friar’.

Many years later, he writes about these experiences in The wood. Brouwers dips his pen in poison as he portrays a Roman Catholic monastery and boarding school for boys, in which a completely perverted community of males goes about its business with impunity. In 2015, he receives the award for the best literary Dutch-language book for it, the ECI Literatuurprijs.

Not only are the pupils humiliated and brutalized by the friars, they are also sexually abused. This all takes place under the concealment of a church that propagates charity. Young friar Bonaventura faces a dilemma. Will he choose to be the silent accomplice who helps the victims as much as he can? Or will he decide to go, leaving them to their fate?

It takes a woman in the world outside the monastery to be able to make the decision. During a visit to the dentist, Bonaventura meets young widow Patricia. But even after a secret love affair develops between them, he remains indecisive for a long time.

Jeroen Brouwers: ‘What caused these people to stay and remain silent? That was the challenge for me: making it credible that Bonaventura is unable to leave, unable to speak.’ This question is the starting point for the first directing of a performance in the main theatre by Michiel van Erp – acclaimed filmmaker of e.g. the TV series Ramses.


Michiel van Erp about The wood

‘For me, the boys’ boarding school where the story of The wood takes place represents many more closed communities. We live in a world where revelations about power abuse and sexual intimidation are a daily phenomenon. The wood is about the mechanisms behind the collective concealment of abuse. And about the dilemmas that individuals face when they want to do something about it, and about the courage that is required to step forward. And that love wins in the end. The wood is also an ode to the authorship of Jeroen Brouwers. In the theatre adaptation by Jibbe Willems, his language has been preserved. Brouwers’ words fire through the church like bullets.’

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