Writer: Iain Bloomfield & Lucy Hind
Artistic Director: Iain Bloomfield
Reviewer: Sheila Stratford
The Netherlands is about being the parent of a child with complex disabilities. All parenthood is a journey. Using an allegory in which a much-anticipated journey to Italy leads instead to The Netherlands, the play illustrates this particular journey. However, we see that with time and fortitude you can discover all the beauty that the other place, the child with learning difficulties, has to offer.
This one act play does not shy away from the immense challenges and hurdles that are encountered when a child is growing up with a disability. In The Netherlands, we see the parents react and cope in very different ways by sharing with the audience their thoughts, writings, and diary entries. They communicate their experiences with the audience in a very heartfelt well.
The academic father, Iain Bloomfield, researches in fine detail his daughter’s syndrome and succumbs to a breakdown. Whereas the mother, Lucy Hind is practical and wears her emotion more on her sleeve and doggedly fights for her daughter’s rights. The couple are estranged, but continue to be dedicated and supportive parents each in their own way. There is no dialogue between the two characters but nevertheless, an affection and admiration for each other is demonstrated. They both deliver excellent performances.
We hear occasional low background recordings of the child that appear to be from the safety of the womb. Perhaps, if the child’s voice was heard more clearly and as she was growing up, it might have added an even more powerful dimension to the play.
The set is divided into two different spaces mirroring the two different ways of facing the challenge. This works well and reflects the physical distance between the parents. There is a flight messages board with occasional messages running along the bottom. This can occasionally be distracting as it is not possible to really concentrate on both the action and the messages at the same time.
Parents of children with disabilities will certainly be able to identify with the struggles of encountering the perceived endless bureaucracy of dealing with the education system and health professionals for the rights of their child. The director hopes that the play will generate much discussion and be a supportive experience for parents, professionals, and others
Theatre Deli is an arts charity with a large flexible space being formerly a retail outlet. It was a perfect location for Two Tonne theatre company’s play. It is an unintimidating, welcoming space to explore the thought-provoking issues raised in The Netherlands. The artistic director (Iain Bloomfield) brings personal experience of his own, having a daughter with learning and other difficulties. He is passionate about the play’s message and invites the audience to engage in discussion away from the theatre space, though perhaps a more formal question and answer session at the end of the play might have set the ball rolling.
The Netherlands first performed ten years ago has been reworked and updated. It reflects the experiences of parents with learning difficulties from newborn to adults and recognises the challenges encountered by divisions in different background and class. It is supported by Arts Council England, Mind the Gap, Interplay Theatre and Cast Doncaster.’ It puts the emotional and well being of parents center stage.’
Reviewed on 7 November 2018 | Image: Contributed