Eden Central

11, 12, 14/05 – 20:30
13/05 – 22:00
15/05 – 18:00
EN > FR / NL
1h 15min

From Binche to Aalst, Manah Depauw has immersed herself in the world of processions and other mass rituals, all cultural practices temporarily inverting the social order and blurring the dividing line between good and evil. The director also takes as her starting point cosmological stories that confront man’s ancestral fears by summoning up lost paradises that are without morality. But why do communities feel the need to stage their fear? Are they invoking occult powers just to be able to expel them more easily? Depauw is fascinated by the fragile balance between madness and possession, simulation and acting. In her quest for a primordial Eden, she draws from mythology, carnival and folklore: inexhaustible sources of inspiration for the masks, costumes and iconography running through her latest work. She conceives her Eden Central as a deep jungle, a world of science fiction where people attempt to get away from savagery to attain civilisation. Ultimately, to become human beings...

Concept & direction
Manah Depauw

Hans Bryssinck

Soetkin Demey, François De Jonge, Nicolas Delalieux, Jessica Batut, Blaise Ludik

Light design & set design
Raphael Rubbens

Maxime Bodson

Concept & realisation costumes
Manah Depauw, Cathy Weyders, Ada Rajszys, Cathy Peraux

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Les Brigittines

Margarita Production for The Other vzw

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, WEB 3.5, Buda Kunstencentrum (Kortrijk), Kunstencentrum Vooruit (Ghent), wp Zimmer (Antwerp), Le Vivat (Armentieres), Frascati Productions(Amsterdam), BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen), Black Box Teater (Oslo)

In collaboration with
Les Brigittines (Brussels), STUK Kunstencentrum (Leuven), Teaterhuset Avant Garden (Trondheim), Centre Pompidou (Metz)

Supported by
Vlaamse Overheid, Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie

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To meet Manah Depauw and discuss the development of this new piece with her is a bit like finding the night at the bottom of the garden. It’s worth remembering that her work develops there where the light from the house no longer reaches, where the forest and its mysteries begin, the place where the civilised world stops.

To Manah Depauw, The Forest, or Nature, represents everything that crawls, swarms and threatens outside the framework of reason. Like in Johnson & Johnson, her previous creation, where the characters emerge through a tucked-up skirt, with earth and dead leaves between their teeth. They had barely escaped from the rampant branches that kept them enclosed and started to penetrate through all the holes; they deceived the hunter and managed to extract themselves from the hands of perverse young girls. They had almost found refuge in a hut but the door was closed... and the Forest came close to swallowing them up.

In the shadow of Manah Depauw’s plays flourishes a magic and terrifying world. This is where can be found the moistest of our fantasies, the densest topic of our recurring anxieties: Fear of the dark, of the unknown, of death, of the big hole that swallows everything.

It’s the exploration of the ambivalent relationship to our primitive fears that led the young director to plunge into the rituals of inversion. In all known regions, man has organised sacred moments in which the Underworld takes over. Where nature returns, uncontrolled, exuberant, full of all the impulses that society has tried to stifle.

At these sacred moments of inversion, all codes are subverted, nothing obstructs the impulses. Neither money nor power, nor the Church. These are the ‘sacred’ times of the return to the state before guilt.

It was during this time outside the norm, in that golden age prior to fault that Manah Depauw made a start on the story of Eden Central: ‘just’ after the Big Bang, when man could not be tried for these acts because he had not yet lost innocence. It’s our ambiguous relationship to this state prior to reason that Manah was looking for with Eden Central: the constantly active tension between our fascination and our desire for living lets us again be overwhelmed by the ‘a-consciousness’, and our fear of loss is then the only thing that differentiates us from animals.

As in the commencement of all myths, the goal here is less to describe a paradise lost than to offer an explanation for reality. In Eden Central the end of the golden age is manifested by the appearance of territorial and power conflicts that lead to the establishment of a new, controlled, subordinate order. But man cannot live by reason alone and that’s when trances and inversions reappear, those moments when everything seesaws anew into chaos, and when the gods return to earth in the form of giants, their red eyes gleaming with anger.

In many of these earlier pieces, Manah Depauw had used the narrative form of storytelling to, among other things, take the viewer into the Forest and suddenly shine a flashlight onto his childhood terrors.

For Eden Central, she turned to original storytelling and cosmologies. But we’ll probably not find a literal streak. It is as if, having absorbed and sucked the marrow of ‘syncretism’ from our myths, the young director spits out only the part that still resonates today. Here one might recognise certain narrative motifs, but their assembly is definitely strange and thus disturbing, and the people she depicts are all possible first men rather than probable lost newbies.

To quote: “What interests me is how a society, sick of itself, heals itself.” And how modern man, private rituals, trance and dance, might find other outlets for their existential malaise than his poor ecstatic pursuit of the truth, the authentic, the real thing.

Agnes Quackels
A longer version of this text appeared in Scenes 32

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Artist and theatre-maker Manah Depauw (°1979) graduated from the conservatory of Liège. In 2002 she launched her own company with Marijs Boulogne: Buelens Paulina Cie. Their strange tale Endless Medication was selected by a number of important festivals in Europe. Together they also created the on-site performance Hotel Zero Control (2003) and, at the invitation of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Good Habits (2004). Manah Depauw subsequently began working solo, notably on the installation Box and Dressing Room (2004-2005). Together with Bernard Van Eeghem she created the plays All Along The Watchtower (2006-2007) and the remarkable How do you like my landscape (2007-2008). One of her latest pieces, Johnson & Johnson, was selected by the Theaterfestival 2009. Since 2007, Manah Depauw also gives workshops in the drama department of Rits, a school for audio-visual and performing arts in Brussels.

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