First ensure you’ve had a couple of kwak beers in their proper glass, then head upstairs to Toone’s theatre with its puppets dangling from the eaves, take your place on the bench – and be prepared to not understand very much. Fear not though, this is normal. This is Bruxellois.
This time it is an adaptation of Hamlet, transported to the backstreets and canal of Brussels. There is a bit of hanky panky between King and Queen, a regal ghost burning his bottom on the fires of purgatory, and someone has caught the “English” flu. Sitting near the front you can appreciate the arms behind the artifice: 7 young puppeteers are needed to perform the show, and the lead puppeteer (Toone VIII) is also ticketmaster, barman and answerer of baffled-tourist questions.
“To be or not to be: that is the cwestion…” We’ll say this in English, that way everyone can say they didn’t understand a thing”, says one of the characters. But perhaps this Bruxellois dialect isn’t so tricky after all. There’s a spuuk in this play, you know, and a snotneus, and a stommeriek (stupid person). Mostly performances are in French Bruxellois, but once a week you can try Flemish Bruxellois (and be even more confused). The dialect survives mostly as a strong accent and vocabulary: you’re most likely to hear it amongst the older generation and Flemish speakers.
In the interval, you can drink yet more beer amongst retired 30 year old puppets in the tiny museum-cum-bar. Meanwhile I’m mulling over a line from the performance:
“Justice is a snail. It will come in its own time.”
Toone reopens on February 1st, after its annual break.
Check online to see what is playing, and reserve places online or by telephone a couple of days beforehand if you can.
Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes 66, 1000 Brussels
(down a tiny "snicket" off the pedestrian road by Grand Place). I just thought I'd throw in some Yorkshire dialect there for you!