Judith Sleddens (alumna Theatre in Education - shortened programme): ‘PUHAHA lies somewhere between a party and a theatre performance, with stories about celebration told by residents from De Baarsjes district in Amsterdam. An experience that takes place in and around the creative meeting place MidWest. You are guided as audience past different stories that are shared by local residents. A group of actors accompany you along a route with dancing disco balls, lanterns, music and stories so you can join in the celebration. A performance for anyone who loves to celebrate or even those who don’t.
This manner of connecting with my neighbourhood was pretty much automatic from the moment that I opened myself up to the idea; by just walking into MidWest one day and simply engaging in conversation, chatting with a neighbour by the rubbish bins and cooking together with Mahmoud and Faiza at the community centre. My aim was clear: to make an experiential theatre performance for and with the neighbourhood, so that new connections and encounters would arise.
Through PUHAHA, I also wanted to shine a light on differences from a positive perspective, in the hope, and with a cautious conviction, that we could come together in this way. Not theatre that sows division, but precisely the opposite. A form of theatre where differences are embraced and celebrated, a form of theatre which everyone could identify with, while simultaneously learning about something you’ve never come into contact with before.’
From the jury report of the Graduation Prize: 'The enormous professionalism that is expressed through PUHAHA is one of the many strong aspects of this theatre production that Judith Sleddens executed at the heart of the Amsterdam district De Baarsjes. Sleddens creates a beautiful visual language, which clearly demonstrates a love of details, and brings that to life with a number of excellent actors. PUHAHA was created together with the local residents, thus taking place amidst the target group, and succeeds in arousing the interest of a varied audience in a theatrical celebration that will definitely make you feel cheerful.'
Anita Groenink, director MidWest: 'PUHAHA is the story of togetherness. Creating and telling a story in a real-life neighbourhood together. Not just storytelling by people who have been trained for, or have experience in, that, but real stories from real people, sometimes funny and often vulnerable. Occasionally recognisable, but more often inspiring. And not only storytelling, but having people feel and experience the stories. Sometimes from a distance, because distance sometimes makes something uncomfortable. But more often right in the centre of things. In the centre of a party, the kitchen or the restaurant. As an older neighbour said: “I have never experienced something like this before. It was a real adventure.”'
Kim Berkenhagen, education Internationaal Theater Amsterdam: 'To me, PUHAHA ended up being a performance which brought out the best in Judith as an artist and one in which she found a form that I believe is extremely relevant for these times. Her wish is to create theatre together, in which the exploration is sometimes even more important than the outcome. Her love of food; of the connecting role that food can have. Her love of the unknown; of people from all strata of the population. And her inquisitive nature that wants to know and connect. And all this full of quality, lightness and humour at all times. PUHAHA ended up being a performance that opened its doors in West to many different people and backgrounds in an extremely relaxed and open manner.'