26 July 2019

Postcards from Oostende

Second year students in Dutch Studies put together a bilingual theatre performance set in the Belgian seaside town. 'Postcards from Oostende' offered a snapshot of six British students taking a Dutch language course on the Flemish coast.

Student during theatre production: postcards form Oostende

Postcards from Oostende: A performance in Dutch and English

The beach is empty and Villa Leopold is gone. In its place a dark apartment block called ‘Riviera’. There’s a garishly coloured sign: ‘Te huur’, to rent. Oostende…De Noordzee…. The six of us.

In April 2019, students of Dutch at Sheffield swapped the university buildings for the DINA Arts Centre to perform their first play. 

As part of the project module Flemish Fictions of the Sea, the second year students with a major in Dutch put together a bilingual performance set in the Belgian city of Ostend (Oostende). Postcards from Oostende was a snapshot of two days in the lives of six British students taking a Dutch language course at Villa Leopold, ‘a large turn of the century house in Oostende, a city by the North Sea. Belgium. A country once dubbed “the crossroads of Europe”’. 

Postcards form Oostende student group

‘Ossehaas uit de kerststal’, an essay by Dutch author Charlotte Mutsaers, was the central text to the module. Mutsaers reflects on the poetic dimensions of her life in Oostende and on the nature and function of literature. Students put together a scrapbook to develop their character in the play whilst broadening their knowledge of Oostende in images, poetry, prose, maps and lyrics. Based on their own research, students wrote a short monologue or ‘postcard’, which became an integral part of the play. 

“Sometimes I write something in the sand, with a twig that has been washed ashore. I write, safe in the knowledge that soon, the words will be gone forever. There’s something liberating about it. Writing not ever to be read. “De zee is de moeder van alle gedichten.” The sea is the mother of all poems. Perhaps, Hannah, because she has collected each and every fragment of poetry ever written upon her golden stomach and re-arranged them to create the most beautiful verse never to be read…”

From: Postcard by Megan Strutt

Postcards from Oostende was a great success thanks to our students’ tremendous efforts, their creative talent and their contagious enthusiasm. Special thanks also goes to our Taalunie Assistant Maxime van der Voorn and our Erasmus Language Coach Larissa Biemond. Postcard from Oostende was developed and produced by Filip De Ceuster.

“If I have to describe this module in one word? Different!” – Lukas Shakesheff

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