Valentijn Dhaenens

After obtaining a Master’s Degree in Dramatic Arts at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp, Valentijn co-founded the theater company, SKaGeN. From 2006, the company has been rewarded with structural subsidisation from the Flemish / Belgian Government for their work as one of the leading modern theater groups in Belgium and Holland. Outside SKaGeN he has worked extensively as an actor in over 30 productions for Belgium’s major companies such as NTGent, Kaaitheater Brussels and Ontroerend Goed. His international breakthrough came with his own written and directed solo-show BigMouth that is touring extensively to major festivals and venues worldwide. A follow up called SmallWar was presented at the Edinburgh Festival 2014 and the Adelaide Festival 2015. It wil be touring through 2018. Aside from his theatre work, Valentijn is a sought-after narrator for documentaries such as The boy is gone by Christophe Bohn. Occasionally he is a guest lecturer at Belgian and Dutch theatre schools. To a broader audience, Valentijn is best known for his acting in several TV shows and films, most notably for his lead-role in De helaasheid der dingen / The Misfortunates by Felix Van Groeningen which won numerous prizes worldwide such as the Prix Art et Essai at the Cannes Film Festival 2009.

Valentijn Dhaenens (° Gent, 1976) creates Domestica en Unsung for KVS.  
 

When you were a child, what did you want to become?

I always wanted to go on the stage. Or at least since I was six, when I announced that I wanted to be an actor. One of the first things I remember is that when I was with my family, everyone would burst out laughing when I did an imitation of someone. Although I was otherwise a rather introverted child, I absolutely lapped up this attention. Perhaps this is where the first seeds were sown. The image I had of acting back then was of course completely different to what it is today. As a child, I also soon became fascinated by the theatre as a place where extraordinary things happened, and I found this act of lying (pretending) more fantastic than real life. So in a certain sense, I am doing what I have always wanted to do.

What was your most unforgettable experience on stage?

For every good production, you’ll find that around once in thirty times everything goes perfectly. These are the real highpoints – those rare moments when you have the feeling that the place, time, yourself and the audience are all united and share the same emotion. That one rare moment in which everything seems to come together and deliver everything that we had ever hoped for. The first performance by DegrotemonD in Amsterdam was one such moment, and I remember it as a magical evening in which everything – every pause, every silence, every increase in tempo – seemed to be just right. Last week, I played SmallWaR in Brisbane and the performance was unexpectedly emotionally charged, which shocked me greatly. I had that feeling you get when, at a certain moment, a performance seems to ‘come home’, as if it had been specifically created for this audience, on this evening, in this place. 

Why are you making Domestica for the KVS?

I lived through my parents’ divorce and, unlike many other people, I experienced it as a kind of deliverance. A deliverance from the tension and fear that I experienced as a child when my parents were often living at odds with each other. I remember lying in bed and hearing my parents downstairs raising their voices or even crying sometimes. At times like that, all feelings of protection and trust fell away and I would have liked to have got divorced from my parents myself; to have packed a rucksack, set off down the nearby motorway in my go-kart, and got as far away from them as possible. I still find it difficult to bear a certain type of argument. It doesn’t matter what context it is in, but if certain frequencies are reached in a difficult discussion, I am often gripped by that same desire to flee. I think that this emotional fascination is my main reason for creating this performance, in the hope of exposing part of the terror that can cause me – and no doubt many other people – so much anxiety.

IN THE PRESS