Although not originally from Zeeland, Martien Beversluis lived much of his life in the province of Zeeland, in Veere to be precise. He did not live there alone, but together with his (second) wife, Johanna Verstraate. This young lady – a lot younger than Martien! – , with the clear nickname Jo, was born and raised in Veere, the daughter of a lockkeeper.
After a career in radio, Martien turned to writing poetry and novels. His wife also wrote, but sought her themes closer to home: the rural novel. Her stories were set in the province (and especially on Walcheren) – and the text spoken by the characters was rendered in dialect. She used various pseudonyms for her work (Dignate Robbertz, Jo van Wentveldt, Sylvia Mares, Jola de Canter) and had a lot of success – especially in the province of Zeeland. In many Zeeland families one would find Jikkemien, Volk van Basalt, Geertrui, the witch of Veere, Man te Roer or her later youth books.
Their personal lives were, to put it mildly, rather turbulent, and Martien Beversluis’s in particular stands out: he evolves from moderate Protestant to socialist, later even communist. He turned to the Reformed faith and in World War II he joined the NSB and even became a sympathiser of the German SS. At the end of his life, he moves into circles of Catholicism and anthroposophy. What kind of man is this? An opportunist? A weather vane with no backbone? Ordinary follower?
Theatre is an important medium particularly for portraying emotional processes. In a theatre play, the protagonists speak for themselves, react to circumstances and also share their doubts.
Valreep Foundation develops and performs theatre plays with a Zeeland background. In early 2024, Stichting Valreep plans to release the play Dansen op der Boede, a play about the complex life of the above-mentioned Martien Beversluis and his wife. This solo performance is performed by one actress: she plays Johanna Verstraate who tells the story of her husband. She is of course loyal to her husband, but in some cases perhaps also shows the doubts she had about his peculiar manoeuvres.
The performance is strongly localised in the municipality of Veere, long home of the illustrious couple, but also portrays the social climate in the province of Zeeland, and particularly Walcheren between the two World Wars. The performance is a moving play that intertwines personal history with the historical context of the province.
The Hurgronje Family Fund made a financial contribution to the creation of this performance.