A jury report contained the line ‘Huub Stapel continues to reinvent himself’. It became the motto of the actor and presenter’s career. After his successful solos about the differences between men and women and marriage, Stapel once again explores a universal theme: family.
Actually, his new performance has its origins in the TV programme Hidden past where Huub Stapel (67) could be seen in early 2022. It turned out that Stapel’s father had signed up for membership of NSB at the start of the war. A special story that was never talked about at home. At the same time, Stapel remembers a ‘fantastic father’. He asked comedian and Jan Beuving (40) to write the text Family only plus some songs. The result is a funny, moving and convincing performance, which is also very personal this time.
Huub: “I wanted a young person to write the lyrics for this solo. And Jan writes so tearfully beautifully. In addition to my own family history, there are a number of songs, but of course also conferences about family situations that almost all of us have to deal with: a family weekend, for example.”
Jan: “I hope to write Family only to bring my two loves together. I’m a comedian, but also a huge theater enthusiast. The great thing is that Huub brings a mixed form: it’s not really cabaret, but not a stage monologue either. And Huub is a very good actor, so I wanted to take advantage of that. For example, I wrote him a monologue of a German officer who speaks only in Shakespearean pentagram. You said you didn’t find it easy…”
Hub (measured): “No. I have to work hard on that. But he doesn’t go out.”
No one without family
Huub came up with the theme of the new solo: family: “I checked some things in my family and talked about it with my brothers and sister. There is so much at stake: it’s about poverty, right and wrong, history, who was right and who was wrong. My parents loved each other very much and we, their children. My talent also comes from the family: my father could sing beautifully in polyphony, my mother often recited poems, she knew a hundred of them by heart. They loved languages, just like me. So maybe it was natural to talk about family after love and marriage.”
Jan: “Yes, I immediately saw its potential. Because it is a common denominator: everyone has a family, no one is born without one. It’s a theme throughout history, think of family dramas, loves, Romeo and Juliet is, for example, one big family and class struggle. And if you think of a family weekend on a Wadden Island, the stories immediately come to mind. The same applies to the follow-up of a funeral. And of course there is Huub’s family history, which only got better as more information came to light.”
Huub: “Because of my own history, the performance has become more diverse, more personal. It goes more in depth. I’m a sentimental dragon myself, so at first reading I had to swallow with emotion. My oldest brother said: “It’s as if Jan has lived in our family for the last forty years, like one of us.” Isn’t that wonderful?”
From NSB to resistance
The family history of the Stapels – from Tegelen, Limburg – was rocked by the TV programme Hidden past where Huub participated in early 2022. Huub: “I thought it would be discovered that I had Jewish roots, because in 1782 David Stapel ended up in Gendt, near Nijmegen. But we lingered much later, already at the Second World War. I went to the archive and a leaf fluttered down from the folder. It was my father’s registration with NSB. I recognized his handwriting immediately. Well, we’ll get it, I thought, soon it will be revealed that he has betrayed people or worse. Now the wonderful man that I held in such high regard growing up turns out to be a monster. World War II was only occasionally talked about at home, but the word NSB was never used. We heard from a cousin about twenty years after his death that the story told that father had been in love with a daughter of an NSB member in Groesbeek. That man had an entertainment band that my father wanted to be in. But then he had to take out that membership. So he did. He eventually ended up in Weert via Venlo, where he lived with the head of the Limburg resistance, Mr. Dorssers. There he confessed his sin. The man said, “Then you can now do away with a lot.” And he did. The whole kaleidoscope of what can happen in a war happened to my father: a member of the NSB, a prisoner of war, he escaped and joined the resistance. It is actually a miracle that that man survived the war and that I am here.”
Jan: “Fantastic material for the show. Let’s be honest: It’s not a good story, but one that puts everything on the line. That you think: wait a minute, I had a great father, I had a very good relationship with him, and I never knew this about him. Why was he always silent about it? Good question for the thread Family only .”
Huub: “Yes, that question is asked in the performance. Will that also be resolved? Come and see!”
Jan: “There is an answer, but whether it is the truth… The ‘truth’ and the ‘facts’ may be two different things. The fact is that he was a great father to Huub. So you follow that family history, because it is yes, the family that knows Huub best, but other families are not spared either.”
Huub: “Family is important to me, especially now that I am grandfather to Scotty, my grandson. She just turned two and I look after her one day a week. Recently I asked my sons: did you have a good childhood? Fortunately, they said wholeheartedly: couldn’t have been better. I can say the same about my own parents. Despite having to wear my older brothers in reverse underpants. For my tenth birthday, I got the bike that three brothers had already ridden, but with new tires. The most beautiful gift I have ever received. So yes, I know the importance of family and Jan has expressed it beautifully and funny. I’m really looking forward to playing Family only .”
The performance ‘Kun familie’ by Huub Stapel can be seen on Friday 13 January in Rabo Theater De Meenthe in Steenwijk and Wednesday 5 April in Schouwburg Ogterop. Starts at 8 p.m.