The structure BoeR ( Farmer) was built in 2002 within the Boulevard Theatre Festival in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. The 10m cube, made of scaffolding structures and straw-bales hosted a special theatrical performance of a cow being milked by a local farmer. The arena type auditorium was 100 % recyclable and returned to the production process. A truly circulair building..
The work can be divided into three levels or stages. The first, inspired by the ritual-theatrical festivities of antiquity, consist of a procession towards the theatre. “The trajectory of the audience is part of the work”, says Robbert van der Horst. People walk from the border of the city through meadows in the open countryside to the straw-bale structure. By crossing the fens they enter the territory of the cow who is enjoying the fresh grass. The bustle of the city can still be heard, a car is approaching from afar. Upon entering the structure – which represents the second stage of the work - everything suddenly becomes quit and dim. The straw-bales have excellent sound insulation properties. The last phase starts with the entering of the cow and the farmer. In this very intimate setting the key element is the sound of milking hitting the walls of a sink bucket, which excels in the quite environment. At the end of the performance the milk is offered to the spectators. The hatch in the ceiling is raised and daylight penetrates the space. The rhythm of the cow determines the time of performance : at 7.00 am and 16.30 pm.
The work is rooted in the social, historical en topographical context of the site, dealing with the altering position of farmers in landscape management. The romantic act of ancient hand–milking and the offering of milk to the audience refers to the ( perhaps partly forgotten) role of the farmer as producer of food. The farmer seems to be the host. In the after talk with the farmer(s) – while drinking milk - it becomes clear that in fact the city has taken over the land for recreational use, nature development and water storage. There are almost no cows anymore in this polder.
The farmer-host has lost the power to use this countryside already.
In the initial phase photographer and farmers daughter Ineke Oostveen made images of the local farmers, some of whom subsequently performed in the show. Images of their hands were used in the ten different invitation cards. For the famers the performance was a social event too, judging each other’s hand-milking capacities, sharing memories and discussing the future of farming.
( text free from the book Recycled Theatre – Narodni Museum 2015 Hungary- page 204-207 )