Unilever Lecture : “Soldier of Orange” by Jeremy Brock

WAITING LIST  Guest speaker will be Jeremy Brock, screenwriter, playwright and film director for UK version of long-running Dutch musical ‘Soldaat van Oranje’.

From the introduction in the Winter 2019 Newsletter :

The subject of the 2020 Unilever Lecture will be the international version of Dutch hit musical ‘Soldaat van Oranje’, which premiered October 2010 in the ‘theater hangaar’ at decommissioned Valkenburg naval air station. The UK production is expected to open in autumn 2020. Eric Hazelhoff Roelfzema’s book, published in 1970 as ‘Cave of the Rattlesnake’, was republished the following year as ‘Soldaat van Oranje’. Paul Verhoeven created the film version in 1977 with Rutger Hauer playing Erik Lanshoff, a character modelled on the resistance hero.

When we approached Jeremy Brock to be our guest speaker at the Unilever Lecture in 2020, he positively responded by writing the following:

“Back in 2014, I and my UK agent were invited to attend a performance of the Netherlands most successful musical, SOLDIER OF ORANGE – the story of the Second World War, Dutch Freedom Fighter, Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. The idea was that I might become involved in helping take the show to London and beyond.

Nothing I had ever seen before had prepared me for the 360 degree, immersive experience of watching this show. Its impact on the Dutch audience was immediate and visceral. By the final curtain, every single member of the audience was on their feet and applauding like their life depended on it! I could see, immediately, why SOLDIER OF ORANGE was such a huge hit. No show I have ever seen is as daring, as bold and as multi-dimensional as this one. Theu Boerman’s visionary direction has created an entertainment that defies easy description – part musical, part play, part history lesson, part celebration, part expiation, it includes real boats on real water, real sand dunes, real motorbikes, real aeroplanes and a son-et-lumiére of dance and music that envelopes its audience in a non-stop aural-visual feast.

In my lecture I will discuss the challenges of re-framing this amazing story for an international audience. I will look at the broad, cultural differences that make SOLDIER OF ORANGE so unique and I will home in on some of the more script-specific tests that the Dutch language and its argot throw up for a UK audience.

Every Dutch person I have ever met, young or old, knows the story of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. All the historical references in the show are automatically understood by Dutch audiences, such as the Netherlands five day invasion in 1940 and the relationship between Erik with their redoubtable Queen Wilhelmina. An international audience knows none of these details.

As the international writer, my task was to home in on the universality of SOLDIER’s central themes. At its heart, this show is about a group of young people faced with critical choices: to fight and risk their lives for their country or to give in to fear and loathing. Erik and his friends are examples of the struggle every young person faces when asked to make such crucial choices. These elements of the story became my way into a version that could speak to audiences anywhere in the world. I had the added advantage of a wonderful mother-son relationship between Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema and Queen Wilhelmina. The story of their bond, tested in the heat of battle and resolved by her letting him go, is universal story of all mothers and sons in wartime.” Jeremy Brock

Jeremy Brock is a multi-BAFTA award winning English screenwriter and director, whose credits include MRS BROWN, CHARLOTTE GRAY, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, DRIVING LESSONS, I AM SLAVE, THE EAGLE, and HOW I LIVE NOW.

Jeremy co-wrote the screenplay for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, adapted from the novel by Giles Foden. Winner of the 2007 BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best British Film, it also won the BIFA for Best Independent Film 2006. In 2014 Jeremy was commissioned to write the English Stage version of the Dutch hit musical, SOLDIER OF ORANGE.



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