Welcome to this huge square full of tents, stalls and improvised ‘homes’ in the style of old circuses and fairs (let’s fantasize over this together). You know that every other address offers a theater performance of some kind, and they run continuously, during each day.
The spectacle already begins outside, with the artists using the best of their persuasion skills to get the audience to choose their show, in the way of a public outcry. Oftentimes they go on a parade, making all sorts of proclamations, in a holler, interacting with the people around or just playing music and singing. In every case it is a cheerful event – or hysterical – it depends.
In the middle of the square, there is a merry-go-round whose lights and music easily hypnotize you. The screams of excitement add up to the atmosphere, as well as the sweet smell of old-fashioned candy, available in the wooden carriage ‘next door’. In the meanwhile, let me make a prognostic on eventual food and drink consumptions. Let’s say you start with a (heavy) blonde beer. The ‘heaviness’ here is no figure of speech; this amusing characteristic is stated in the bottle itself. This one already gets you giggling. Two (big) mushroom krokets on bread, mustard and lettuce afterward, and the giggles are under control. Suppose now you have two scoops of ice-cream – ginger en speculoos cookies to be more precise. You might levitate at this point. Topping it up with a glass of red wine would be almost common sense, wouldn’t it? We all know how the joys of the belly can have an impact on the ones of the spirit, and that is probably why I’m taking longer describing the edible part of the experience.
And then your attention might get struck by a charming lady in red who announces a show where actual facts play their part. You see the artifacts carefully disposed on the surrounding area, and inside, the story unfolds. The grandpa of the main actor immigrated to the USA in the 30’s, and he ended up performing with a local freak-show circus. There’s even a cracked short movie which proves it, and it was specially fixed for the occasion. The actors keep you under the spell with the performance of Lestica, the theater-circus whose man with a bison head or a woman who swallows needles are no bizarre phenomenon. Once the show is over, the atmosphere outside is just an up-to-date extension of the fantasy you have just experienced.
Now, you might be well acquainted with an annual traveling theater festival, which takes place in four different Dutch cities, during the summer. Let me tell you if I had imagined such a festival, back in the days when I was in theater school, my fantasy would be probably something less impressive than the real thing. De Parade. If you never heard this name, please rely on my description ( any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence). Or go see for yourself – you have until the end of this week.