From eternal supporting role to leading lady. What makes the actress Janni Goslinga so good?


Janni Goslinga (in blue) in ‘Scenes from a marriage’.Sculpture Jan Versweyveld

Horrified, Janni Goslinga stumbles out of the car, one foot completely in plaster. When she sees her director Ivo van Hove and her fellow actors, she bursts into tears. She has just come out of the hospital and says that her foot was broken during rehearsals for the performance Age of Rage. This is one of the most dramatic scenes in the documentary Two men where Ivo van Hove and his permanent scenographer Jan Versweyveld are followed during these rehearsals. Goslinga assumes that she can no longer participate in this intense performance, where there is a lot of dancing, singing and running. But Van Hove came up with a solution: Goslinga played in a wheelchair. It took a while to switch but it worked great.

Janni Goslinga (53) has been employed at the International Theater Amsterdam (ITA), formerly Toneelgroep Amsterdam, for 27 years. Year after year she plays there in countless performances, always good, not always striking. But this year suddenly seems to be her harvest year: for her lead role in the show The doctor she was nominated for the Theo d’Or and on December 9 she will receive the Mary Dresselhuys Prize 2022, a two-year oeuvre prize for an actor or actress. Previous winners include Fedja van Huêt, Jacob Derwig, Steef de Jong and Beppie Melissen.

Who is Janni Goslinga really? The silent power of ITA? The actress who prefers to stay out of the limelight? Or the actress who is really gaining steam?

Too modest

A little bit of everything, but especially the last, says her colleague Marieke Heebink. Janni is someone who has grown incredibly over the years. A kind of steamrollers that have now also started visible to everyone, making them one of those leading ladies is in our company. It turned out The doctor but also in Age of Rage she was amazing.’

Ivo van Hove, director general of the ITA, has directed her in many performances. He calls her an ensemble actress pur sang, one who is invaluable to his company. Van Hove: ‘She feels enormously responsible for the group and also for the performance. When she broke her foot in that stupid accident, she almost panicked because she thought she was giving up everything. She is always listened to at meetings, she commands respect. She is the cement of our ensemble.’

And she is, says Van Hove, an actress who embraces adventure. ‘A long time ago we did a performance by Aernout Mik without a text – many actors thought it was scary because they had lost their grip. Janni and Joop Admiraal thought it was fantastic. Which is also so good: she dares to play emotions without it becoming sentimental, so without unnecessary magnification’.

Fellow actor Hans Kesting: ‘Janni stands with both feet on the ground – what you see is what you get. She is completely reliable and always smart. Almost too modest perhaps, while modesty is not always good in the theatre. I would like to wish her a little more licentiousness in her acting. Although that is changing a bit, thankfully.’

Janni Goslinga in 'Age of Rage' (ITA) Image Jan Versweyveld

Janni Goslinga in ‘Age of Rage’ (ITA)Sculpture Jan Versweyveld

ITA and Toneelgroep Amsterdam have always had a number of players who were figureheads. Earlier these included Kitty Courbois and Annet Nieuwenhuijzen, later Halina Reijn, Chris Nietvelt and Marieke Heebink. All the while, Goslinga has been part of their success in her many roles. Because there is, in addition to her recent roles in Age of Rage and The doctor, quite a few other roles where she stood out. Be memorable Scenes from a wedding, In disgrace to Coetzee’s book and her unforgettable Masha in Chekhov’s Seagull .

These were often productions by guest directors such as Thomas Ostermeier and Luk Perceval; Eric de Vroedt, now artistic director of Het Nationale Theater in The Hague, also directed her a few times. Like in A tram named Desire (2008) by Tennessee Williams. For her role as Stella, she won a Colombina (Best Supporting Actress) – her first real award.

De Vroedt: ‘At that time I was quite dominant in what kind of playing style I wanted, and that style was quite hyper. Janni cooperated fully in this. The times I’ve directed her, I’ve noticed that she likes to be able to fully transform herself, wearing wigs and all. IN Queen Lear she played a wonderful nouveau riche woman. As an actor, she is receptive to the director’s ideas and at the same time treats them in her own way – for me it is the ideal combination.’

Janni Goslinga comes from a medical family, and her brother Juda is also an actor. They do not miss a performance of each other, give each other feedback and, if necessary, comment as well. She unequivocally chose the theater, he can be seen much more in films and TV series.

Doctor family

Juda Goslinga: ‘We have inherited a love of theater from our roots. My mother’s brother is director Pieter Kramer, he visited us a lot. And with him artists like Loes Luca. We often went to his performances and they made a big impression. Janni wanted to be on stage as a 6-year-old, and immediately afterwards the drama school ended at Toneelgroep Amsterdam. She is a real team player there, and it is now paying off: her qualities are increasingly being recognised. When she was nominated for the Theo d’Or this year, it really felt like everything came together: the craftsman she’s become at 27, her intelligence and the layering she has in The doctor could lie as the daughter of our parents.’

director of The doctor is the English theater maker Robert Icke. It was the first time he had worked with Goslinga: ‘The character she plays in this play is constantly under high tension, she is constantly in a war zone. Janni played it with some surprise, but also determination. In London that role was played by Juliet Stevenson and I wondered if Janni would succeed too. She really surprised me with her role. Unfortunately, I could not attend the premiere. Soon a colleague of hers answered my answering machine: ‘Janni was fantastic, next level.

Next week, Janni Goslinga can be seen again at ITA i Age of Rage. You’d expect her to be crazy about dancing and running and all that, but no, it’s been decided that she’s going to stay in that wheelchair. Why exactly? Van Hove: ‘She plays Hekabe, and it’s a war victim. The forced wheelchair turned out to be a find and everyone loved it. Janni too.’

Age of Rage can be seen until 10/12 in ITA, on 10/12 also as ITA-Livestream.
The Mary Dresselhuys Award will be presented on 9/12 at the DeLaMar Theater Amsterdam.

Leave a Comment