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Robrecht Herfkens

Phone: (+61 4) 1072 9964


Start date

Apr 2013

Submission date

Mar 2017

Robrecht Herfkens

Robrecht Herfkens profile photo


Social and political satire and the Dutch cabaret tradition - It ain't easy being the funniest guy in the theatre


This thesis sets out to examine the relationship between theories of satire and Dutch cabaret. I argue that satire, expressing critique through ridicule, constitutes an essential dimension of Dutch cabaret. I trace the spirit of Dutch Cabaret back to the subversive classical Roman satirical works of Horace and Juvenal, arguing that Dutch cabaret is a performance art where the artist adapts the “satirical spirit” to articulate observations about contemporary society. The thesis will consider the notion of satire, and therefore the notion of Dutch cabaret, as a sociological phenomenon in which Dutch society creates the “satirical spirit” in order to reflect upon itself. The thesis also examines Dutch cabaret’s historical development as a performance genre from its origins in Paris to its incorporation into the Dutch entertainment industry. I suggest that while the Dutch variety of cabaret has experienced many developments, it retains its satirical essence, the cabaret performer entertaining the audience by reflecting upon relevant socio- political or moral topics. The thesis argues that Dutch cabaret is a performative manifestation of the “satirical spirit” through the ages which can be whimsical, absurdist, and mordant. The current wealth of contemporary Dutch cabaret performers creates a spectrum within the genre where the artist can balance topical engagement with comedic entertainment according to their personal repertoire.

Why my research is important

As a national genre, Dutch cabaret held its cultural influence and importance within the borders of the Netherlands only. By researching the satirical aspects of Dutch cabaret, the thesis aims to introduce the genre to international peers within the field of theatre studies, cultural and sociological studies, but furthermore broadens the research regarding the performance of satire on stage.


  • UWA Completion Scholarship
  • Overseas Travel Award