5, 7, 8/05 > 20:30
6/05 > 15:00
Language: NL
Subtitles: FR
Duration : 1.20

üBUNG means practice. Director, writer and a leading actor on the Flemish scene, Josse De Pauw, has written a play featuring six children. They are watching a black and white film that is set in a splendid villa and centred on a sumptuous meal. Friends are having a party, but it is somewhat forced because they have to drink to be able to talk to each other and end up drinking too much, letting slip too many things. It is a chaotic display of petty concerns. On stage, the children are dressed just like the adults in the film – miniatures in colour of the grown-ups on screen. The film’s sound has been turned right down and the children skilfully set about saying its lines and re-creating its sound effects. They have learnt by heart what the adults say and how they behave. Is this the kind of life that they are going to have to practise enduring or are they just ironically mimicking the film?

Concept et idée/Concept en idee/Concept and idea: Josse De Pauw & Koen Gisen

Texte et Mise en scène/Tekst en Regie/Text and Direction: Josse De Pauw

Acteurs dans le film/Acteurs in de film/Actors in the movie: Josse De Pauw (Robert), Carly Wijs (Rolanda), Dirk Roofthooft (Ivo), Lies Pauwels (Ria), Bernard Van Eeghem (Olivier), George van Dam (György).

Acteurs sur scène/Acteurs op de scène/Actors on stage: Jasper Sturtewagen (Robert), Louise Carpentier (Rolanda), Basiel Bogaerts (Ivo), Romy Bollion (Ria), Dimitri Dauwens (Olivier), Stefaan De Rijcke (György)

Assistant à la mise en scène/Regie-assistent/Assistant to the Director: Koen Gisen (film/movie), Katrin Verlende (scène/stage)

Caméra et éclairages/Camera en belichting/Camera and light: Ruben Impens (film/movie)

Son/Klank/Sound: Robbie Boi (film/movie), Eddie Latine (scène/stage)

Eclairages/Belichting/Light: Philippe Digneffe (scène/stage)

Techno: Piet Depoortere (film/movie), Kurt Verleure (film/movie)

Décor et costumes/Decor en kostuums/Set and costumes: PYNOO (film & scène/movie & stage)

Scriptboy: Jan De Coster (film/movie)

Montage/Montage/Editing: Geert Bové (film/movie)

Catering et Administration tournées enfants/Catering en Tournees kinderen/Catering & Tour Management children: Hilde Gythiel (scène/stage)

Directeur de production/Productieleiding/Production manager: Pat De Wit (film & scène/movie & stage)

Composition du thème et direction musicale/Compositie van het thema en muzikale begeleiding/Theme Composition & Musical Coaching: George van Dam

Paysage sonore/Klankdecor/Soundscaping: George van Dam & Kurt Verleure (scène/stage)

Remerciements à/Met dank aan/Special thanks to: Marc, Celine, Marie & Alice Van den Broeke & Monique Blyau, Els Pynoo (Julie dans le film/in de film/in the movie), Hotel Brasserie Wijnendael (Linda De Troyer), Sportdienst Stad Gent, Ilke Christiaens (stagiaire photographie/ stagaire fotografie /photography trainee), An Graré (artiste maquilleuse/make-up kunstenares/make-up artist), Herman De Roover (construction décor/decorbouw/set construction), Michel Malin (technicien répétition/repetitie technicus/rehearsal technician), Sergio Rogier & Kaat Decock (professeurs de violon/vioolleraars/violin teachers).

Production/Productie/Production: Victoria (Gent)

Coproduction/Coproductie/Coproduction: Het Net (Brugge)

Tournées/Tournees/Touring: De Verenigde Werkhuizen THASSOS

Présentation/Presentatie/Presentation: Kaaitheater, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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How quiet it is this morning! And what a fuss there was last night. (Ria laughs). Everyone’s unhappy about something. In life, my mother said, we all hold back our tears, our rage, our disappointments. And then one evening, with the help of alcohol, all these little things we’re unhappy with come out… Maybe we need it to happen.

Extract from üBUNG by Josse De Pauw

Thanks to a suggestion by Dirk Pauwels, Josse De Pauw has been working as artist in residence at the Victoria in Ghent since 1999. They collaborated on work of visual and surreal exuberance at the time of the Radeis, which French-speakers were able to enjoy at the Théâtre 140 thanks to Jo Dekmine. Seventeen years have passed since then. Addicted to the stage, Josse De Pauw has never stopped seizing hold of anything to do with acting: writing for theatre, directing, creating music, cinema scripts and roles on the big screen, whilst continuing to dazzle the stage with his strong presence. Involved for many years with the Kaaitheater in Brussels, working in Ghent now and soon to move to Bruges as artistic director of Het Net (formerly De Korre), Josse has always been prepared to open wide his theatre doors to the freedom of all disciplines. In Ghent, the Victoria is involved in theatre where children and teenagers can come any time and hang out, even if they do not know what they really want, rubbing shoulders with directors, choreographers and established writers who create with them and, sometimes, for them.

The Victoria wanted to work on inspiring productions for and with young people. Josse’s response to this was, “I felt unable to write a text that would be on the same wavelength as childhood and adolescence. But the idea developed. Why not short-circuit the adult world through the eyes of the young who are watching it?” The play was written and became a screenplay, then a film in black and white – the ‘model’. In a splendid country house, Robert and Rolanda, frazzled and tense, wait for their friends, Ria and Ivo, to arrive. As soon as they hear the car horn, the ‘performance’ begins. Effusiveness, hugs and kisses and forced cheerfulness. A dinner washed down with wine, two couples who are not getting on, an unattached friend who is an amateur poet, and the violinist from the east, looked after by them like an exotic and romantic cherry on a cake. There is polite small talk, edited shots of things they own (mobile phones, Jaguar cars, art collection, swimming pool, sauna, the most up-to-date television and music systems, the latest cuisine) and ostentatious conversations that soon get bogged down in the flow of alcohol – before they encounter what they really feel deep down.

On stage, six children watch the film. They are twelve, maybe thirteen years old. The sound has been switched off. Dressed exactly like the six adults at the party, they have fun recreating the sound track from the big screen, dubbing voices, mimicking the action. Are they practising? If so, what for? The play is called üBUNG, meaning ‘practice’! “The idea wasn’t that they should put a lot of effort into expressing the characters’ emotions. Quite the opposite in fact. They all have to be completely in sync with the lip movements of the adult he or she is the miniature version of and with the sound of the action. They had to manage the whole mechanics of it. They really set to it and got a lot of pleasure out of it right from the start of rehearsals. They love imitating grown-ups. It’s important for me that their skill comes across, that they have the right rhythm and are really synchronised. I’m not putting them on stage, I’m directing a concert. They rap the monologues and dialogues, chant the lines they’re dubbing. I need them to really know what they’re doing. The headphones and monitors give them the freedom to move about as they hear it. We obviously didn’t select the shy or unassuming ones to be involved here. But then their ‘models’ aren’t either…”

The ‘models’ featured in üBUNG have a hard time of it, for all their luxury items, whilst saying ‘what fun we’re having!’ They have everything they want except what is essential: affection, love and tenderness. “I wrote quite stereotypical roles on purpose because in the film I knew that the actors would venture to fill them with their own experiences, nuances, upsets and turmoils – they’re incredible. Of course, the children will never be able to laugh in the same way as adults in society do, nor let themselves go like them. That’s what’s confrontational and beautiful about it: the differences between them.” Between the film in black and white and the stage in colour, who is mimicking whom? “We use the display of what we own and what we’re able to afford to speak for us. Then when there’s a real need to talk, it all falls apart.” Is that a problem teenagers have or adults? “When Rolanda collapses in front of the closed bedroom door of ‘her’ in-house violinist and gently cries for him to give her a child, what sound does that put into the mouth of little Louise who is imitating her?”

And when they applaud the violinist’s performance with the same cheerfulness as a champagne cork popping from the bottle? And when a bloke on his own is only there for others to poke fun at like the duty buffoon? So who and what is the üBUNG for? “The children aren’t on stage to put the adults, or the performance they give, on trial. In any case, we underestimate what effect that part of us needing a ‘performance’ has on human relationships. We say that it’s not honest, a lie, but it often saves us. But we’re fooling no one. Of course, children hate outbursts. Seeing grown-ups argue is scary. But if we explain that arguments do happen in real life and it doesn’t matter, that it’s about being upset or tired, not being at war, then children know there’s no harm in it. I don’t really believe in creating a cocoon of innocence, protecting them from the harshness of the real world, because it creates imaginary ‘fairy tales’. If children know about it, they are totally capable of taking in what we don’t bother to hide. Preserving purity as something of great value makes my blood run cold!”

üBUNG is not judgmental, nor does it criticise any one thing in particular. It does, however, play things down, streamlining the drama in places, the little crises and the void in living. Running through üBUNG too is the hard work of the young violinist portrayed in the film by George van Dam. He wants to master his strings so that, whether struck, scraped or plucked, they end up singing. It matters little here that the violinist is only working on his pieces to win a famous competition. And while little Stefaan on stage can already produce astonishing music from his instrument, his own strings still fight against controlling all the melody’s fluidity… “I love life, life as it is. Zo zijn we! With our dreams and faults, our pleasures and stupidities, our brusquenesses and roars of laughter.”

Create and allow to be created. Josse adds, “I really have no idea what will come out of this synchronisation of live children and filmed adults in the end. In any case, I’m not interested in controlling the emotions that will come out of it. I don’t like putting the pressure on to have a particular outcome. It’s true that, for me, the play’s heart beats in a little ballad, Voorbij(meaning over or finished), containing ridiculous rhymes murmured in Flemish by our amateur poet who has retired to the bathroom. ‘Something beautiful passed by me, close to my head, brushing against my heart. I don’t know what it was. I wanted to catch hold of it, but couldn’t find anything. Suddenly I cried, gently, for a long time, until sleep came over me.”

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