With De Duivels / Les Diables, Krapp — the theatre collective formed by Mats Vandroogenbroeck, Nona Demey Gallagher and Timo Sterckx — takes one of the most notorious witch trials in European history as their subject matter.


The year is 1632. Early modern France is in recovery from plague epidemics and religious wars that have caused chaos, famine, and division across the country. The Catholic Church, in response to the Protestant Reformations, has been tightening the reigns and conducting a purification of its faith and its subjects. Cardinal de Richelieu, who is Prime Minister of France under King Louis XIII at the time, battles against independent national factions that obstruct a powerful centralised state.

In that same year, the French city of Loudun is startled by a gulf of demonic mass hysteria. The nun Jeanne des Anges, abbess of the town’s Ursuline convent, claims to be possessed by the devil. Soon her 17 fellow nuns become infected by the same demon. The nuns point to the progressive, sexually promiscuous priest Urbain Grandier as the perpetrator. The well-spoken Jesuit priest was already persona non grata at the Paris court after his resistance against the demolition of the city walls, a state order that had been assigned to superintendent Jean Martin de Laubardemont. By request of Richelieu, Laubardemont investigates the demonic case in an attempt to silence Grandier. After a merciless show trial, the priest ends up on the stake.

Novelists and historians alike have been investigating the possession of Loudun for centuries. Philosopher Michel De Certeau described the bizarre events as a complex piece of political theatre. ‘The exorcisms were transformed into a grand public process: a confrontation between religion and science, a debate on what is certain and uncertain, about reason, about the supernatural and about authority. It was a ‘theatre’ that drew curious onlookers from across Europe.’

According to Krapp, the Loudun case resonates particularly with our own time, now that political paranoia, conspiracy theories and religious rhetoric are increasingly used as mediagenic strategies to frame and brand minorities. The trial pushed all the involved parties into specific, theatrical roles that could be both emancipatory and destructive. In that sense, both the possessed nuns and the accused Grandier became actors in a grand political play that broached brand-new societal questions.

The events in Loudun put into sharp relief how new ideas often go hand in hand with reactionary outbursts. In times of major transition – of scientific revolution and of early enlightened thinking – forgotten devils resurfaced; stronger, more powerful, and more conservative than ever.

Urbain Grandier, who openly opposed celibacy for priests and raved fiercely against the authoritarian regime of the French monarchy, was reduced to a diabolical wizard. And in a time when women were systematically oppressed, when witch burnings and femicide ran rife, the possessed nuns had to take on the role of a (male) demon in order to ‘safely’ vent about their permanent state of oppression. Although ‘possession’ is traditionally seen as a state of complete loss of control, De Certeau calls the demonic possessions of the involved nuns ‘a rebellion of Amazons’. He believes that the possession is just as much ‘a revolt by women: women who are aggressive and provocative, and who, through exorcisms, get to communicate their most suppressed desires and needs for the first time’.

Nona Demey Gallagher takes on the direction of De Duivels / Les Diables. Timo Sterckx plays Urbain Grandier. Mats Vandroogenbroeck wrote a new theatre text based on historical materials, from novels and case files to accounts from spectators, exorcists, victims and accused. Various fictional side lines are woven into the story, inspired amongst others by research by the academic Silvia Federici, in order to more actively illustrate the motivations of the female characters.
De Duivels / Les Diables is Krapp’s third creation. They previously created Weird Tales (2021) and Through The Looking-Glass (and what we found there) (2019).

Mats Vandroogenbroeck (°1993, he/him) is an actor, theatre creator and writer who studied History at UGent and Drama at KASK.

Mats has worked as an actor and creator at, amongst others, de Kopergietery, studio ORKA, Blauwhuis, Malpertuis, Compagnie de Koe and artist collective ZUIDPARK. With Jonas Baeke he recently created the children’s theatre performance Bambiraptor, which was selected for the Theaterfestival (2022).

Besides his work as an actor, Mats is working on an artistic and critical writing practice. He is an editorial member of cultural and critical magazine rekto:verso and writes the texts for Krapp, his theatre collective with classmates Nona Demey Gallagher and Timo Sterckx. His fascination for the occult is a recurring theme in his theatre work. With their absurdist text for the creation Through the Looking-Glass (and What We Found There), Krapp won the SABAM Jong Theaterschrijfprijs (a prize for young writers) at Theater Aan Zee (2019).

Nona Demey Gallagher (°1995, she/her) is a theatre creator. She graduated with a master’s degree in drama from KASK Ghent. She has collaborated amongst others with Ontroerend Goed (Loopstation), KOPERGIETERY and Beeldsmederij De Maan (plastiekBERTRAND), DE Studio (Dreaming Not Sleeping) and CAMPO / De Koe (In Koor!). 

With Mats Vandroogenbroeck and Timo Sterckx, she makes up the theatre collective Krapp. They created Through The Looking-Glass (and what we found there), which won the Theatre Writing Prize at Theater Aan Zee #19, and Weird Tales, a feminist horror film on stage about the life of Mary Shelley, in which Nona played the writer herself.  

Besides theatre, Nona has also studied Flemish sign language at Doof Vlaanderen. She created the performance E R O T I C A together with Imke Mol, in which they translate erotic poetry by female authors into Flemish sign language. In 2023 Nona is directing Krapp’s new creation De Duivels / Les Diables, as well as her upcoming radical feminist project Up Your Ass at Campo.

Body / Mind

With his famous proposition ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ — ‘I think, therefore I am’ — the French philosopher René Descartes radically separated the mind from the body at the start of the 17th century. Within his mechanistic philosophy, reason became the protagonist, while the body became a dehumanised machine full of passions that could only be controlled and neutralised by reason. The idea that the rational mind is the central tenet of humanity legitimised both the power of God and the distinctions between classes, races, and sexes. Like the labourer and the slave, woman was an irrational being that was too mentally weak to control her subversive passions and humours.

In a France plagued by pestilence and religious wars, the body became a political instrument to subjugate labourers and women in order to stimulate population growth, consolidate the power of the church and increase state capital. Within this thinking, female diseases like hysteria were supposedly caused by a wandering uterus: a wild and untrustworthy organ that was best tamed through marriage. Church and state instated strict rules around reproduction, marriage and contraception, and women were reduced to reproductive machines. The female body became a matter of state, and their ancient knowledge of nature was scandalised – especially midwifery, alternative medicine, and herbalism.


Witch / Saint

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, women lost nearly all of their societal freedoms. Women without a family, prostitutes, single mothers, and midwives were especially regarded with distrust. The image of the witch became increasingly prevalent: often an elderly, lone woman who lived in poverty or had withdrawn into nature. Witches were seen as promiscuous and rebellious women who copulated with the devil during hedonistic sabbath rituals and bewitched men to corrupt their minds and undermine their authority. Witches became state enemy number one, and hundreds of thousands of women were burned at the stake, hung, or tortured. They were condemned for, amongst others, contraceptive magic, sodomy, murdering children, and worshipping animals. After the peak of witch burnings, at the end of the 17th century, the image of women changed gradually. The prototype of women as virtuous and innocent took shape, a period sometimes called ‘the century of the saints’. These canonisations happened mainly to (religious) women, after a turbulent period of demonisation and witchcraft. A possessed woman would endure the torture of exorcism as a form of martyrdom, a noble offering that must be made to become a saint. Public exorcisms also served as an example: the absolute power of the church was demonstrated as a clear victory of faith and purity over heresy and rebellion.

Timo Sterckx (°1995) is a theatre creator and actor. He studied Drama at KASK Ghent. 

After his studies he kick-started his career with De Roovers as well as with Louis Janssens and Ferre Marnef in Toverberg, their second collaboration after #BOS. He previously created The Greatest Show on Earth with Louis, a performance for which Timo learnt an entire book by heart. 

He makes up collective Krapp with Mats Vandroogenbroeck and Nona Demey Gallagher. They created Through the Looking Glass (and What We Found There), which was awarded the Theaterschrijfprijs at TAZ#19, followed by Weird Tales. Besides his own creations, Timo has performed in projects by Myriam Van Imschoot/Cie De Koe, Theater Malpertuis, and Julie Cafmeyer. Timo’s own work has been selected for the Theater Aan Zee prize four times. He is set to appear in new creations by Bruno Vanden Broecke and WOLF WOLF.

Bastiaan Vandendriessche
Bastiaan Vandendriessche is an actor, theatre-maker and writer, with degrees in International Political Science (Ugent) and Drama from the Antwerp Conservatoire. Besides his work as a player and creator with Ontroerend Goed, Orkater, 4Hoog, Jotka Bauwens and Krapp, he also has been writing his own work (De Fuut, A white man's burden, Ode aan Buldegart, Mockingbird, Dorian) since 2017. With his debut performance De Fuut he won the International Best Performance award at Amsterdam Fringe 2017; with the translated version he performed in England and Scotland (Big in Belgium). A white man's burden he created at Theatre Rotterdam. With Ode aan Buldegart, he became a finalist for the 2020 Toneelschrijfprijs, after which the text was translated into French (Ode a Hurlegarde) in collaboration with KVS and Mike Tijssens. Currently, the theatre-maker is working on his first literary work Staart, op korte en hopelijk erna lange liefde, co-supported by Literatuur Vlaanderen.
Maria Zandvliet
Maria Zandvliet (1999, she/her) first studied philosophy at the University of Amsterdam for a year before starting drama studies at Kask in Ghent, where she will complete her master's next year. Besides De Duivels / Les Diables, Maria has accomplished several projects already. In 2021, together with Toon Acke, she made De Onderspitdelver, a performance based on Thomas Bernhard's book of the same name. Then, in 2022, she made the performance Opnieuw, a free adaptation of Wachten op Godot by Samuel Beckett. That same year, she did a directing internship with Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe at Toneelhuis. Furthermore, in the coming year, Maria will focus on creating an adaptation of The Sound of Music. In De Duivels / Les Diables, she will take on the roles of Madeleine and Cardinal de Richelieu.
Fleur Perneel
Bruges-based Fleur Perneel obtained a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from KASK and graduated as an artist in circus arts from ESACTO' Lido (Toulouse). She also holds a diploma from the AHK in Mime studies (Amsterdam). The artist creates and performs her solo HUNT OR BE HUNTED in Flanders, France, and Spain. As an acro-dancer, she can soon be seen in Eldorado, a creation by Cy Nicanor De Elia, and as a performer and musician in Nadine O'garra's A Chaque Pas Que Je Fais Je Laisse Une Empreinte Dans Le Paysage. She also writes and performs in the open-air performance J'ai creusé des chutes, together with Paloma Arcos and Kaïssa Roulx. In her own creation De kleine finale van hert, she will be on stage with her father (premiering spring 2024).
Fiene Zasada
Fiene Zasada (2000, she/her) got her secondary diploma in Word Art Drama at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven. Now she studies drama at the KASK in Ghent, where she will complete her master's next year. As a child, she had a great fascination for the musical genre. Together with fellow drama students Bavo Buys and Matilde Casier, she forms the collective De Miserabeln, their theatrical West Flanders musical choir. Fiene did an internship at Walpurgis in the Libretto lecture AIDA in 2022. In Krapp's De Duivels / Les Diables, she will perform the role of Mother Jeanne.
Eleni Ellada Damianou
Eleni Ellada Damianou is a multi-disciplinary artist based between Brussels and Athens, with experience in performing arts, costume design and scenography. She attended the Greek National School of Dance and P.A.R.T.S. to study dance, and pursued fashion design at D.I.I.E.K. She performed with several choreographers and companies, including Radouan Mriziga, Fabrice Mazliah, Ultima Vez, and many more. As a costume designer, she has worked in collaboration with artists and brands like Konstandinos Rigos, Christophe Coppens, Mohamed Toukabri, and Ancient Greek Sandals. Her projects have ranged from dance performances, art installations, advertising campaigns and theater productions. In 2022 she worked as lead pattern maker for the National Greek Opera. She was awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS in 2022. Eleni Ellada Damianou is exploring the interaction between movement, space and textile.
Emiel Vandekerckhove
Visual artist Emiel Astrid Rambeaux Vandekerckhove recently graduated in liberal arts at LUCA School of Arts in Ghent. Since childhood, Emiel has been fascinated by drawing. Today, he turns those drawings into paintings, tattoos, murals and animated film. He is co-founder of the former Astrid Collective, with which he organised exhibitions and performances for four years. For Bambiraptor, a production by Kopergietery & KGbe, he worked as art director, together with Jonas Baeke & Mats Vandroogenbroeck. Last year, they performed at the Theaterfestival in Ghent. He also painted the set for Prelude In de Sneeuw by Stan Martens & Ferre Vuye and Guilty of Love by Sophia Bauer & Marieke Schraepen.


CONCEPT Mats Vandroogenbroeck, Nona Demey Gallagher, Timo Sterckx (KRAPP) PERFORMANCE Mats Vandroogenbroeck, Timo Sterckx, Fleur Perneel, Bastiaan Vandendriessche, Maria Zandvliet, Fiene Zasada, Matthias Van de brul TEXT Mats Vandroogenbroeck DIRECTION Nona Demey Gallagher DRAMATURGY Dina Dooreman COSTUMES Eleni Ellada Damianou PAINTING Emiel Vandekerckhove MUSIC Lukas De ClerckCOACHING Valentijn Dhaenens LIGHT DESIGN & DIRECTION Dimi Stuyven SOUND DESIGN & ENGINEER Bram Moriau  TECHNICAL PRODUCTION & STAGE MANAGER  Lieven Symaeys SURTITLING Inge Floré TRANSLATION Trevor Perri, Anne Vanderschueren PRODUCTION MANAGER Catherine Vervaecke ARTWORK POSTER Anton Claeys DISTRIBUTION Saskia Liénard PRODUCTION KRAPP & KVS COPRODUCTION Perpodium, Reiefestival WITH THE SUPPORT OF De Grote Post, de Belgische Federale Overheid via Cronos Invest