Hoog Gras

KVS_BOX

12, 17, 18/05 – 20:00 + 22:00
13, 20/05 – 15:00 + 18:00
15/05 – 12:30
NL > FR / EN
1h

Horror, innocence and the delicate link between them are recurrent themes in Inne Goris’s work. In several of her previous shows, she has explored the cruelty of human nature through the archetypal evil described in Greek tragedies and children’s tales. The starting point for the Brussels-based director’s latest creation is contemporary stories of child soldiers, allowing her to examine the thin line between the victim and the torturer. Inne Goris leaves behind the African context that has produced these accounts because this is not about politics. Making us look at our own dark side, she examines the tipping point that leads the individual – and the child – to commit the most dreadful atrocities. A theatrical installation combining video images with words by Peter Verhelst and a sound environment by Dominique Pauwels, Hoog Gras ( Long Grass ) uses an intimate device to give a palpable rendition, with power and decency, of the cutthroat drama of the human condition.

Concept
Inne Goris, Dominique Pauwels, Kurt d’Haeseleer & Ief Spincemaille

Direction

Inne Goris

Text
Peter Verhelst

Music, sound design & song texts

Dominique Pauwels

Video

Kurt d’Haeseleer

Light design & installation

Ief Spincemaille

Costumes
Lieve Meeussen

Actors (children)
Nona Bal, Ruth Bruyneel, Dayo Clinckspoor, Bente De Graeve, Lisa De Smet, Fran D'Haens, Ernest Eeckhout, Ine Langeraert, Szaga Lauwers, Sara Osmanagaoglu, Mariuga Rathé, Jacob Schoolmeesters, Jozef Van der Meulen, Lena Vanneste & Viktor Van Wynendaele

Actress (woman)
Lieve Meeussen

Choir (recorded)
La Monnaie Children’s Chorus (Matthias Cruypelinck, Annelin De Gols, Ana De Winne, François-Emmanuel Douchy, Ernest Drescigh, Claire Franssen, Paul Mernier, Pascal Philip Nick, Maria Portela, Julia Sterneberg, Frédéric Tabourot, Daphné Van Dessel, Clara Verkindere, Laur'Adelia Vitiello) – programmation & piano: Dominique Pauwels

Assistent choir direction
Aldo Platteau

Voice-over Dutch
Nero Nolson

Simultaneous audio translation English
Louise Chamberlain

Simultaneous audio translation French
Marie Bos

French translation
Monique Nagielkopf

English translation
Gregory Ball

Production manager
Sofie De Wulf

Technical coordination
Nic Roseeuw

Technics
Pino Etz & Brecht Beuselinck

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS

Production
LOD|music theatre

Co-production
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, WERKTANK & Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen

Thanks to
Entrakt, Melanie De Muynck (make up), Willem Teerlinck (student production), Geeraard Respeel (student media art), An D’Hondt (student technics),Jannes Dierynck (student technics), Hélène Flaam

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Hoog Gras (Long Grass)

Fairytales, Greek myths like Medea, reality stories, such as that of the 2-year-old Jamie Bulger (who was slain by two 10-year-olds), or The girl with the matches, ... There is one thing that the subjects and stories chosen by theatremaker Inne Goris always seem to have in common: children and horror. For the new production Hoog Gras she works closely with an artistic team, and ventures onto the theme of ‘child soldiers’. Video maker Kurt d’Haeseleer, composer Dominique Pauwels, and Inne Goris justify their choice of subject in this production.

Why did you opt for child soldiers?

Inne Goris: I had read a lot, What is the what by Dave Eggers, the book about Uganda by Els De Temmerman, the work of Hilsenrath and Herta Müller. The thin line between perpetrator and victim has always intrigued me. The children carry that within themselves. They have done and experienced the most horrible things. Those stories have been an essential step in this production. We didn’t necessarily want to show the life of a child soldier, but we wanted to investigate the connections we found in a story that seems so distant.

Kurt d’Haeseleer, as a video maker what was your reaction to Inne Goris’s proposal to make a production on a theme like child soldiers?

KD: Difficult topic, I thought. What the hell can I say? You have no idea of the terrible way in which those children grow up. People are dying there. To make something about that quickly smacks of something amoral. Something almost perverse. What finally convinced me was the image you have of that situation and those children. Their guilt and innocence. Also the attempt to disconnect it from the African context. How can you transfer that here? How do white children behave when they are locked up in camps? The film Le temps du loup by Michael Haneke holds a clue.

IG: You feel a lot of diffidence. Who are we to say something about it? You literally bump into it there. The children (and the artistic team) we work with are good, white, well-fed children. Hunger, none of us knows what that is. The conversations with the children on the floor were about what we do recognize. In the improvisations with text they often harked back to memories of their mother. That also often came up again in the testimonies of the child soldiers: memories of their home, their mother.

KD: The big question was: what do we want to do with the audience and what do we want them to experience based on that material? It’s not a documentary but a sensorial presentation. From the beginning, Inne Goris wanted the audience to sit somewhere in the middle rather than to look at something.

IG: I wanted you as a viewer to experience a bit of what the children experience, almost as though you are also feeling the wind and the cold. Ief Spincemaille has included that in the scenography. We have made this production very much together. Everybody is looking for anchor points. Hence the title Hoog Gras (Long Grass). Many stories conjure up images of children who walk through the grass, elephant grass, which is often taller than them, such that they do not see who/what walks along with them in the grass. For us, grass creates a feeling of peace, of lying back in the grass. So Hoog Gras stands for the danger as well as the peace.

Dominique Pauwels: That grass and this photo in which you see two hanged people alongside two children playing, everything is in there. Also, for the music we quickly opted for children’s voices, the children’s choir from the Munt. What is the role of music in what we relate? I chose to completely leave the music hanging and departed from seven abstract anchor points in the life of a child soldier. The moment at which such a child is completely deserted. The fear. The release. He must accept the situation: “I have killed, I had to do it otherwise I myself would no longer exist, so go ahead and have an opinion about me.” Emotional anchor points.

IG: What are the major milestones in the life of such a child? The kidnapping, the first murder, the inclusion in such a camp. That recurred in many stories.

Is that also reflected in the images?

IG: There are still references in those images but I don’t know if they are noticeable to the viewers. There was a lot of progress made by improvising with the children round those anchor points and in the final filming of the scenes.

DP: The music follows a clear line in words. I start with a release, in order to proceed to the feeling of loneliness in such a child and the many questions he has. Why is this happening to me? Why me? Much is based on that one photo.

IG: Can your child remain in such a situation?

DP: Such a photo shows that that happens. As an adult, you have a more difficult time with it. Hence the fundamental question: is a child guilty and innocent?

IG: Is a child so innocent? During the improvisations the children themselves experienced how fast they cross a border as they gain power. If I should ask them now: would you kill someone?, I think the response of the majority would be “Yes, under certain conditions.” The story of child soldiers has served as an essential step in a story about having a home or re-creating one. So we are using the story of a boy who takes down a hanged woman to re-create a home, to play ‘house’, but of course fails. Plus you get images of the harsh laws at play within a group of young people, which are designated for themselves.

How have you worked with the children for the filming?

IG: Had it been a theatre presentation, I would have had a clear idea of what to do. For the other form that we have now chosen, it was a matter of searching. Kurt came along to have a look and saw at a single glance whether or not the intensity would work on screen, while I was occupied with forming a group and ‘training’ them. You collect material with them; you develop an alertness in them. You let them know with a few words what they should do. Much originates on the spot.

KD: They were really well trained. It sounds weird. As if they were prepared to do those improvisations. After that they were dropped into a specific context, which was not completely fixed. The scenes amongst the young people themselves would be filmed by one of them for YouTube. Guerrilla filming, rather raw, off-the-cuff, without a whole film crew.

IG: At a certain point we filmed young people in a house. They improvised scenes where the dynamics and relationships are cruel and violent, not knowing when Kurt would come in to do the filming. We filmed like that with Dayo and Ruth, who know and trust each other, and we asked them to do a scene in which one drowns the other, without rehearsing. We could only do that because we knew from the improvisations that they trusted each other.

KD: Beforehand, some scenes seemed to me implausible for film, but because they did it for the first time, it took on a strange intensity, which again gave it meaning.

IG: The confrontation between what works on stage but not on film, was not obvious. So we rehearsed that someone is lugged along as a ‘dead body’. Inside, on a ballet floor is different than outside in the howling wind and rain, trying to drag a living person as dead weight...

Did you then create the scenes along with them, inspired by those sorts of stories?

IG: Scenes is not the right word. You create conditions, an atmosphere, an environment in which they improvise. You create material they can use in a new situation. The day of shooting in that house will really stay with me. We filmed Lieve, blindfolded, tied-up in the basement. Kurt then filmed their first reaction. Do you send them straight downstairs or try to explain it to them first?

KD: That mishandling scene had such an intensity that even I thought they were really hurting her (which was not the case), and so at a certain point I stopped filming. Some of the children asked themselves similar questions.

IG: That’s not obvious, as the supervisor, for the children or the parents. You talk about it, you advise them to read something about child soldiers, ... If I make a production about it, I cannot help but confront them with those stories. So we invited someone who has made her thesis on child soldiers. Some take the stories back home, others don’t.

Has it changed them?

IG: In a slightly accelerated way, they’ve become older or bigger. (laughs) During the last day of filming they were parroting. Then a girl told us that her friends said she had become more assertive. Her friends found that good because she sometimes let herself do too much. Her volleyball had also drawn to a halt, and on returning her coach told her that her fitness had improved and she responded faster. These are routes that in one way or another have matured them, coloured them ... wherein they truly care for one another.

How has Peter Verhelst’s text come about?

IG: That was a whole process. The first, more narrative version was the story of a child soldier, but my feeling was that that was not what we wanted to tell. It’s as if a child relates everything he has experienced on the basis of a drawing. I’m very interested in what goes on in someone’s head. After a time, Peter Verhelst also started to get that message. “You want snippets of thoughts, you want to crawl into someone’s head”, he said. Not what someone actually said or meant to say, but what happens between the lines by remaining unsaid, that’s what fascinates me. And sometimes I still find text a foreign body. I’m not a writer myself. So I have made a radically different proposal: a text in the you-form, with which Verhelst has gone back to work. Also, we work on the text with the entire team. The material goes to Kurt as well as to Dominique as well as to Peter. Peter Verhelst is very open about this: delete and take out whatever you want. He spoke with a psychiatrist who has worked with many children with traumas. According to him, children often do not tell the entire story. They stop at a certain moment. What does language even mean in that context? And silence? How much horror can a person take? I had read so much that I became kind of immune to that abomination. You don’t want to send your audience away.

Inne Goris, you’ve made a lot of presentations about children and cruelty, about the horrors of fairytales. After this production on child soldiers, do you want to continue?

IG: Niet in staat tot slechte dingen was my final project in Maastricht. That was the time of Jamie Bulger. I was working at the BRONKS Theatre and I spoke with kindergarten teachers about how even little games can quickly slip into cruelty. For one of those productions I had a covered a shoebox with blue and pink cotton wool while the inside was dark and contained a hanged Barbie doll. There was a reaction of disgust. This search for good and evil was also in Nachtevening: a woman who kills her children, can you forgive her? With Hoog Gras I almost have the feeling that I’ve drawn a line under it.

Where does this fascination come from?

IG: No idea. My mother was a kindergarten teacher and she always came home with stories. I’ve also worked a lot with children. I love the associativity of children. As an adult, the image of children is always very cute. Toddlers are likewise occupied with their sexuality but we prefer to hide that away. I’ve also placed young people on stage in a way that we prefer not to see them, but how they actually are. As a child you undergo a whole process of what is and is not allowed. That fascinates me. And the knowledge that I, as a human, can never say that I would never kill anyone. You hope not, but you don’t know if in a certain context you would do it (e.g. if with a gun held to your head you are forced to kill your father or brother).

Interview by Karlien Vanhoonacker
Translated by Jodie Hruby

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Inne Goris volgde een opleiding tot theaterregisseur en dramadocent aan de Toneelacademie van Maastricht. Met Niet in staat tot slechte dingen en Zigzag Zigzag (BRONKS,1996-1998) levert ze haar eerste theaterwerk af. Daarna gaat ze als dramaturge aan de slag bij Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus. In 2001 creëertze Zeven, en samen met Bart Moeyaert werkt ze in 2003 aan Drie Zusters. Datzelfde seizoen komt Pride and Prejudice (Toneelhuis, 2003-2004) uit. Deze drie voorstellingen worden genomineerd voor de 1000 Watt Prijs, met een effectieve bekroning voor Drie Zusters in 2003. Na Hersenkronkels (Villanella, 2004) creëert ze met haar eigen structuur ZEVEN achtereenvolgens De Dood en Het Meisje (2005), La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes (2006), Droesem (2007) en Naar Medeia (2008). Vanaf 2009 creëert ze onder de vleugels van LOD verschillende producties. Ze regisseert Judaspassie (2009), een project van Dominique Pauwels, gebaseerd op een tekst van Pieter De Buysser. In 2009 volgt Nachtevening (LOD & ZEVEN), het tweede deel van haar tweeluik rond Medea. Voor Muur(2010) laat Inne Goris zich opnieuw inspireren door een tekst van Pieter De Buysser. LOD-componist Dominique Pauwels componeert de muziek.In 2011 maakt Inne Goris samen met Dominique Pauwels de muzikale installatie Droomtijd en de familievoorstelling Vader, Moeder, Ik en Wij (LOD & HETPALEIS) met Dominique Pauwels en Kurt d’Haeseleer.

Dominique Pauwels studeerde aan het Conservatorium van Gent, het Sweelinck Conservatorium van Amsterdam en het IRCAM te Parijs. In 1991 behaalde hij aan het Berklee College of Music te Boston, Massachusetts het einddiploma compositie en filmcompositie. Vanaf dan begint hij zich steeds meer toe te leggen op computertechnologieën en software voor composities. Sinds 1991 componeert hij regelmatig voor televisieprogramma’s zoals Het eiland, De Parelvissers, De slimste mens, De Ronde. Ook verzorgde hij onder meer de muziek voor Lifestyle (1998, Victoria), Niet alle Marokkanen zijn dieven (2001, Arne Sierens), No Comment (2003, Needcompany, Jan Lauwers) en DeadDogsDon’tDance/DjamesDjoyceDeaD (2003, Jan Lauwers & Frankfurter Ballet). In 2006 creëerde hij de filmmuziek van Looking for Alfred, een kortfilm van Johan Grimonprez, die de European Media Award in de wacht sleept. Sinds 2004 is Dominique Pauwels als componist in residentie aan LOD verbonden. Hij werkt er nauw samen met choreografe en danseres Karine Ponties en regisseur Guy Cassiers met wie hij Onegin, Wolfskers en Bloed en Rozen maakt en met wie hij een opera voorbereidt, gebaseerd op Macbeth (2013). Met Inne Goris creëert hij binnen LOD Muur (2010), Droomtijd (LOD & Manchester International Festival, 2011) en Vader, Moeder, Ik en Wij (LOD & HETPALEIS, 2011).

Kurt d’Haeseleer is sinds 2010 de artistieke leider van de WERKTANK, een productiehuis voor mediakunst in Bierbeek. d’Haeseleer is zelf ook videokunstenaar en produceert video’s en (interactieve) installaties, zoals Scripted Emotions, Fossilization en S*CKMYP, die gepresenteerd werden op internationale festivals en voorstellingen in Rotterdam, Tokio, Montreal, Parijs, Berlijn etc. Het werk van d’Haeseleer draait om de visualisatie en symbolisering van de dynamiek van informatie- en dataverkeer in tijden van glasvezelkabels, computers en modems. Media worden gesymboliseerd door lagen plakkerige pixeltexturen, noise en interactiviteit. Zijn werk bevindt zich vaak op het snijvlak van schilderkunst, videoclip, cinema en performance. d’Haeseleer werkt ook regelmatig als videodesigner in theater, dans of opera en maakt ook zijn eigen voorstellingen. Hij ontwierp het videodesign voor de Ringcyclus van Guy Cassiers in de Scala en heeft samengewerkt met Ictus, Georges Aperghis, Transparant, Kollectif Barakha, Isabella Soupart, Jon Hassell, Annabel Schellekens, Joji Inc, TUK, Peter Verhelst, Köhn en BL!NDMAN.

Ief Spincemaille (°1976) leeft en werkt in Bierbeek. Hij studeerde filosofie aan de KULeuven en muziek en technologie aan de L’aula de Musica in Barcelona. Hij heeft als set en sound designer meegewerkt aan talloze theaterproducties, onder andere voor Toneelhuis en Toneelgroep Amsterdam. Sinds 2010 coördineert hij samen met Kurt d’Haeseleer de WERKTANK, een productiehuis voor mediakunst. De grensdomeinen tussen “oude” en “nieuwe” media, maar ook tussen “onstage” en “offstage”, vormen de natuurlijke habitat van zijn werk, dat hij zelf graag omschrijft als een vorm van beeldhouwen in het multimediatijdperk. Alle mogelijke media en tools worden aangewend in de creatie van georkestreerde situaties en geconstrueerde narratieven die de perceptie van de toeschouwer bevragen en uitdagen. Zijn werk werd recent vertoond op het Internationale Filmfestival Rotterdam, Anemic Festival (Praag) en Almost Cinema (Gent).

De WERKTANK is een kleinschalig productiehuis voor mediakunst. Het wil kunstenaars de kans geven om een mediakunstwerk te creëren in professionele omstandigheden en met een goede omkadering. Er wordt bewust gekozen voor een grote diversiteit aan artiesten, zowel op vlak van ervaring, artistieke en culturele achtergrond, mediagebruik en thematiek. Het bindende element is de zintuiglijke tastbaarheid van de werken en de aandacht voor de sensoriële aspecten van de mediakunst. De WERKTANK biedt kunstenaars de voordelen aan die voortvloeien uit de bundeling van administratie- en productiekosten maar garandeert volstrekte artistieke autonomie. Voor de volgende jaren staan projecten gepland van o.a. Mekhitar Garabedian, Wim Janssen, Kurt d’ Haeseleer, Ief Spincemaille, Aernoudt Jacobs etc. De artistieke leiding ligt in de handen van Kurt d’Haeseleer, de zakelijke leiding bij Ief Spincemaille.

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