Peerke, een icoon

A former convict and his daughter go on a pilgrimage from Paramaribo to the leper colony where the Dutch missionary Peerke Donders used to work. But just as the boat is to lift anchor, the daughter disembarks. Her father stays, and he is offered a drink of water by a missionary on the boat.


They share their stories, about their former selves and their respective searches for sincerity. The missionary tries to keep his orphanage open (although the political powers decided otherwise). As the boat sets sail, mainland Surinam becomes the backdrop for their reminiscences. Meanwhile, in a hotel room, the daughter is trying to determine her own identity and come to grips with her past and her father.

Het Zuidelijk Toneel, a Dutch theater with strong ties to Tilburg, asked me to create a piece based on a local celebrity, the 19th century missionary Peerke Donders. He had worked for years in a leper colony in Surinam.


I took my inspiration from conversations I had with visitors of the chapel near Peerke’s place of birth. With this project, I didn’t want to explore a particular group but a societal phenomenon. How and why does empathy emerge, and who do we so often flinch or hesitate when it evolves into compassion?


The resulting play combined live performances with video (by filmmaker Johann van Gerwen) and in the same way it combined reality and fiction.

directed and written by Leen Braspenning
cast Nanette Edens, Ad van Kempen, Dries Smits
video Johann van Gerwen
music Jan Janovcik
Pietjan Dusee
light design Stan Bannier
produced by Het Zuidelijk Toneel
with help from Theaters Tilburg, Stichting Jacques de Leeuw