Play about poet Leo Vroman

This video is the trailer of the Dutch theatre play Hoe mooi alles (How beautiful everything).

On 16 December 2015, Hoe mooi alles was in the Leiden theatre in the Netherlands. It is about the life of famous Dutch poet Leo Vroman (April 10, 1915 – February 22, 2014) and Tineke, his wife.

There are two roles in the play: Kees Hulst as Leo Vroman, and Esther Scheldwacht as Tineke.

Hoe mooi alles, book coverThe play is based on the novel, also called Hoe mooi alles, by Mirjam van Hengel, written in close collaboration with Leo and Tineke. The book was supposed to come out on Vroman’s 99th birthday, but he died just before that.

The play is set at shortly before Vroman died at 98 years of age. The couple reminisces, especially about 1938-1947: the time between when they met and became engaged, and when they finally married. Tineke was of partly Dutch, partly Indonesian ancestry, and had recently come to the Netherlands to study at the same Utrecht university as Leo. 1938-1947 was the time of the second world war.

Before that war, Vroman, being Jewish, sometimes experienced anti-Semitism. After the war, in New York City, a doctor advised Vroman to have an operation to make his nose look smaller: ‘With such a Jewish nose, no employer will give you a job’.

On 10 May 1940, nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. The Vroman family suffered terribly from the fascists’ persecution. Leo fled the Netherlands on 14 May. Against all odds, he managed to reach England on a sailing boat. Tineke decided not to join Leo on that journey, for a complex of reasons, including expecting then it might be even more dangerous than the nazi occupation.

Soon, Leo Vroman decided to leave England for Indonesia, where he could finish his biology studies. Then, imperial Japan invaded Indonesia. That meant three years of Japanese prison camps for Vroman. Often, he came close to dying. Thinking about Tineke kept him alive. Along with small things, like a little mudskipper fish.

After the defeat of Japan, the Dutch government demanded that Leo Vroman should fight in another war: colonial war to stop Indonesian independence.

However, Vroman refused that. He wrote a famous pro-peace poem (also quoted in the play). He went to New York City. Eventually, he became a famous biologist in the USA.

In 1947, Tineke also came to New York City. It was illegal for her to go to the USA to marry. So, officially she came as a student. When she saw Leo after landing, she admonished him not to welcome her too enthusiastically, as authorities might see them.

One theme in the play is mutual feelings of guilt of the couple. Tineke felt guilty about not having joined Leo in fleeing the Netherlands in May 1940. Leo felt guilty about being away from Tineke for so long, and not returning to her immediately in 1945.

Nevertheless, this is a play about two people loving each other for many decades.

A review of the play is here.

1 thought on “Play about poet Leo Vroman

  1. Pingback: Poetess Tineke Vroman, RIP | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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