No man’s land

Twenty spectators wait for twenty guides coming from refugee or immigrant backgrounds in the hall of a train station. The spectators follow one of the guides (performers) during their walk through the city. On headphones, they hear scenarios for a possible discussion, stories about the potential life of their silent guide.

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On the way, the spectator realises the texts he hears contradict each other. The starting point is not about revealing the true identity of the guide, but rather dissecting the view of the spectator. Which stories does she desire to project, which details are implausible and why? Which story is too gruesome to see in the eyes of your foreign guide? During the individual walk, the silent guide functions as a plane for projecting spectator’s thoughts. No man’s land poses the question of whether we base our view of foreigners on socially desirable assumptions or on actual human interactions.

At regular points, the spectator and guide hear the same music. The guide moves and lip-syncs to the music. When, at a certain point, the various guides’ routes intersect, they all move to the beat of the music and the neighbourhood seems to change into a film set. The line between reality and fiction momentarily fades.

The performance ends with a camera obscura, set up in a derelict field. Projected on the walls of their camera obscura, the spectator once again sees the face of his guide after which it disappears on the horizon. The true identity of the guide is never revealed.


No man's land (2008)


"My guide changed from an unknown passer-by into a person I wanted to get to know. (…) Verhoeven creates people from those who would otherwise remain extras in the Achtuurjournaal. (Eight o’clock news). The way in which he does that is confronting, intimate and poetic."

‘Intieme tocht als poëtisch theater’ ('Intimate journey as poetic theatre'), Joukje Akveld for Parool (29-09-2012)read the review (in Dutch)

"Niemandsland is exciting, moving and exceptional theatre, from the overwhelming beginning in a station hall in Utrecht, where time seems to stand still, to the poetic finale. And furthermore, it is important in these times of blunt polarisation."

‘Zijn naam is Reza’ ('His name is Reza'), Robbert van Heuven in Trouw (05-06-2008)read the review (in Dutch)

"Niemandsland is (...) touchingly intimate."

'Ontroerend intiem' (Touchingly intimate), Marijn van der Jagt in Vrij Nederland (26-06-2008)read the review (in Dutch)

"What is theatre? This is what you wonder as you raise a flag of Rwanda. Or on the following night, when you follow in the footsteps of Dourand from Afghanistan through the streets of Athens. ‘No man’s land’ makes you wonder if you have become a spectator in the life of ‘others’, or for a moment the protagonist of their lives."

Stella Harami for Eleytheros Typos (03-05-2014)read the review (in Greek)

"It is not the form - if we can speak about ‘No man’s land’ with such terminology – but an incredible text and dramaturgy, created from interviews with immigrant participants, that achieves to be quiet and simple, and at the same time to pass like a blade through my mind and soul."

E. Marinou for Η ΕΦΗΜΕΡΙΔΑ ΤΩΝ ΣΥΝΤΑΚΤΩΝ (05-05-2014)read the review (in Greek)

Background and public reception

No man’s land in publications

Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink about Dries Verhoeven in ‘Nomadic Theatre, Mobilizing Theatere and Practice on the European Stage’.
a link to this publication

In the Bloomsbury publication ‘Thinking through theatre and performance’ Maaike Bleeker writes about ‘No man’s land’.
a link to this publication

VSCD jury report

In 2008 Verhoeven received the VSCD Mimeprijs for No man’s land and You are here.

read the report (in Dutch)

public talks

Visitors talk about their experiences with the No man’s land project two years after the event.

watch the video

No man’s land in Athens

During the Athens’ edition (2014) of No man’s land the following registration was made.

watch the registration

5 years of No man’s land

In an analysis for Theatermaker, ‘Vijf jaar dwalen door Niemandsland’ (Wandering through No man’s land for five years), Robbert van Heuven poses the question about what a foreign tour lasting years does to a performance.

read the article (in Dutch)


direction, text Dries Verhoeven

local direction Marjolein Frijling (2013 and 2014)

direction assistant Hannah van Wieringen (2008), Bart van de Woestijne (2013 and 2014)

dramaturgy Judith Blankenberg (2008)

sound design Arnoud Traa

technicians Kas van Huisstede (2012), Roel Evenhuis (2014)

photography Stavros Petropoulos and Maarten van Haaff

voices Malou Gorter (2008), Bart Klever, Ria Marks (2013), Adam Fields (2013) in collaboration with 20 guides

co-commissioned by Huis and Festival a/d Werf (2008), Theaterformen (2009), VEO (2010), HAU Hebbel am Ufer (2009), Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam/Frascati (2012), Call of the Mall (2013), Münchner Kammerspiele (2014) and Onassis Cultural Center (2014)

inspired by ‘Please don’t leave me’ by Roos van Geffen