14, 15, 16/05 – 20:30
EN / FR / NL / DE > NL / FR

It’s a small step from To Serve to Deserve, a joint theatre production by film director Jorge León and Simone Aughterlony, a choreographer based in Zürich and Berlin. Based on research into archetypal representations of domestic staff, Deserve blends real and fictive testimonies. Personal accounts by housemaids are contrasted with the analytical discourse of experts, a discourse which generally filters our understanding of this perverted aspect of reality. Subjection and the related abuse leave visible marks.The bodies of the servants begin to revolt against the objects symbolizing their dehumanisation. For León and Aughterlony, a theatrical dimension is inherent to that power relation, and together they question the mechanisms of serving and being served. If the status of servants has evolved in the course of time, what meanings lie hidden behind this symbol of “subservience”, and how are they reactivated in contemporary power relations? The border between subjugation and oppression is murkier than is commonly accepted.

Jorge León, Simone Aughterlony

Angelique Willkie, Céline Peret, Fiona Wright, Mieke Verdin, Thomas Wodianka

George van Dam

Light design
Florian Bach

Ann Weckx

Set design
Nadia Fistarol

Technical direction
Ursula Degen

Halles de Schaerbeek

Verein für allgemeines Wohl (Zürich), Niels asbl (Brussels)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Alkantara Festival (Lisbon), Dampfzentrale/Biennale (Bern), Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Productiehuis Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg), Theaterhaus Gessnerallee (Zürich)

Supported by
Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Foundation, Fachstelle Kultur Kanton (Zürich), Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Ministère de la Communauté Française – Service du Théâtre

Special thanks to
KVS, Les Brigittines, Damaged Goods Nicolas Dubois and Anette Ringier

Project coproduced by
NXTSTP, with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

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We are watching Deserve. A performance with four women and two men, and a machine. There are objects that you would find in any home. These objects do not belong to the characters in the piece or even to the performers: a cake mixer, cutlery, a hot iron, a toaster, a sharp knife. There is a violent episode that we do not see. It has already happened, off stage, elsewhere, but the performers often refer to it. One man plays the violin. There is very little other music, only the violin. And two songs. We hope to hear two songs.

We have been granted access to specific documents. Some details in the documents that we are reading - the given name, country of origin, city of residence, had to be changed and replaced with letters. We can’t say anymore if the letter B stands for Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Bolzano or Belgium. We don’t know if T was Terry, Tissan, Tamara or Tarek.

We are watching Deserve and we're wondering if a woman on her knees is worth more or less than a man on all fours. We are wondering if dirt under the nails is more or less embarrassing than tears in the eyes. And we are debating whether or not it's indecent to imagine Bernadette as either fat or smelly. Or both.

We have many things we want to say so we reach for many things to say them with and the coat hanger is only one of these things. The coat hanger is often very sad, very melancholic. It’s like a word, a hieroglyph, a sign and if you look at it for long enough, like a word, it really doesn’t mean what you thought it meant after all.

We are watching Deserve and we begin to notice that the bodies we see lying over there are ambiguous too. From this distance it’s difficult to say if their stillness tells us something about exhaustion or mere laziness. We also find ourselves on our hands and knees and we find ourselves in the service of another. We witness the twisted intimacy between the domesticated body and the domestic object. We are struck by the potential violence in this relationship. When we imagine the four walls we move inside and the doors we hide behind, when we imagine all the contents of the home and the structure of its occupants we begin to taste a kind of alchemy, a mad and magical potion.

There is an anecdote about a washing machine and there is a famous murder story. We mention things that never appear: le lapin. The two sisters, Papin. We never see them. We speak about fables but we never actually hear one. We speak in English and we speak in French. Also, we raise our voices, we take clothes off, we put clothes on, we look into the audience with... anxiety...

After some time we stage a conference and we imagine there has been a dinner. We do not know who was actually present at the dinner only that some distinguished guests were invited. We remember the childhood game, Cluedo and the characters in the game.

We are watching Deserve and we begin to think that the bodies of the objects are trying to tell us something, as if the objects on the stage, like the objects in the house have something to say. We climb a few steps to speak, we leave the mess and disappear, as if we could let the objects speak for us.

Excerpt from Deserve, 2010

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Jorge León (°1967) graduated at the Brussels Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) and has been working as a photographer and film director. He was also active a dramatist and stage designer for various projects. As a photographer, he worked for Belgian and foreign artists and companies, among who Olga de Soto, Wim Vandekeybus and Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods. Léon’s photos have been exhibited at various locations across Belgium and abroad and were published in newspapers such as The Times and Libération. At the 1999 Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Léon created his installation Unfinished Stories. More recently he has been active primarily as a filmmaker, with a series of films including De Sable et de Ciment (2003), Vous êtes Ici (2006), Between Two Chairs (2007) and 10min. (2009).

Before moving to Europe, Simone Aughterlony (°1977) graduated at the New Zealand School of Dance in 1995. Since then, she has been working as a dancer and choreographer for various artists and companies. In 2001 she participated in Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods’ Highway 101 project, her first time collaboration with Brussels based artist Jorge Léon. In 2003 Aughterlony created her first own production: the dance solo Public Property. Her work explores experiences and the various means of expression and representation used to communicate these experiences. This inquiry often takes rigorous dimensions in its attempt to capture, understand and define the limits of one’s own thoughts and movements.

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