KVS

Together, it's possible

In July last, the director and sociologist Frédérique Lecomte took a group of theatre students and Belgian actors with her to Goma. There, they met child soldiers and they got acquainted with her powerful and exceptional theatre method Theatre and Reconciliation. From this meeting, Vita Siyo Muchezo Ya Watoto (War is no child’s play) emerged, a cathartic show that is set between Congo and Belgium. The individual fates that are exchanged mirror the unbearable fragility of the world. 

At the basis of your method, is there a personal reconciliation through theatre?

That’s what I like to tell myself, but actually I don’t know if that’s right. Theatre has saved the lives of many people. That’s not the case for me, because I wasn’t in danger - but it’s a fact that thanks to theatre, I bloomed. I thought that if it works for me, it should work for many others. I expanded that thought to a more general reconciliation between (ethnic) groups. That main thread was confirmed by practice, but it was never a  consciously elaborated plan. I’d rather call it a life trajectory full of decisive moments.

Is it perhaps because from all these gloomy stories, there’s a sound of a sparkle of hope?

Of course. The light is on the stage. Because they’re there, together, and they’ve already solved part of their conflict and their dejection. When they’re together, it’s because they can be.

Your theatre is neither sad nor pathetic, it’s cheerful and even lighthearted. Is that because you don’t look in a certain way at the people you’re working with?

I work with people who are often in such enormous difficulties, in horrible circumstances, with a terrible, traumatizing past of rape, crime etc. I won’t bring up those painful issues to create a performance that’s useful for me. All scenes have to be a stimulus for the actors, not for me. When a scene deals with a trauma, then it’s only for the purpose of looking at it from a different angle. The lighthearted way of working is important to me because I don’t want to make a performance that’s too slow or too serious on top of this suffering.

Your method Theatre and Reconciliation - it’s applied in conflict zones, but also here in Belgium for uprooted people and psychiatric patients - is often considered ‘therapeutic’. Do you share that view?

Yes, that’s what they sometimes say about me, but primarily, I create theatre. There is a therapeutic and reconciliatory aspect that is set in motion because I work with vulnerable and conflict-ridden groups. It happens for example that I bring child soldiers together with girls who became rape victims. The theatre then functions, so to say, as a safe space where one can accept the story of the other. I don’t put people on the sofa, I interpret. I rub my unconscious against the unconscious of the other. I put into images what I see in the other. That’s a more instinctive approach. I would rather say that I’m acting magically, instead of working therapeutically.

Nowadays, more and more directors work directly with the population groups they want to talk to. They no longer work around but with them. This vision is at the basis of your theatre.

My point of departure is the principle that one shouldn’t steal people’s stories, one has to respect them. In my shows, nobody ever plays the role of someone else. Regarding the child soldiers in this show, we asked ourselves many questions, because it was impossible to bring them over to Brussels. Do we have the right to speak in their name? And what are we telling then? About the actors on stage: everyone plays their own part, but that can happen in a different, caricatural way. The actor takes a distance from himself in different ways. That’s a very Brechtian way of working.

The Belgian premiere of the show takes place in KVS, but your theatre is accustomed to perform both within organisations and on alternative locations. 

For me, it’s important to reach all audiences. I don’t want to be part of the mainstream theatre circuit. The show is performed both in open air and in theatre venues, and part of the staging and direction happens live. Performing in KVS is a symbolic recognition that brings me joy, but in principle, the work is still the same; I won’t do nice lighting and scenery, because I’m now in a prestigious space. As always, I want to maintain the rough character.  Less is more. The less I put in, the better.

With your method, you aim at reconciliation between people through theatre. Could we consider Vita Siyo Muchezo Ya Watoto an attempt to reconcile the North and the South?

The first thing and the last thing that we see in this show, is the level of humanity with which the participants on stage treat each other. Wherever they’re from, North or South, whether they’re rich, poor, Flemish or Wallonian, whether they speak French, have identity papers or not, are or aren’t intellectual. The great gathering on stage provides some hope of a possible reciprocal humanity. The asylum seekers bring problems connected with their statute, while the Belgians, even when they’re professional actors, wonder what the West is actually searching for in Africa. How are they going to perform this, and do they have the right to perform it? Throughout all these stories, we touch upon themes like exotism, the problems of representation, the individual and international aid, the problems of theft of riches, of emigration and refugees. 

Since the nineties, you stage theatre plays in conflict areas in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. What made you take a group Belgian actors with you for the first time?

Five years ago, I created a very powerful theatre show with child soldiers in Congo. On a first impulse, I wanted to take them to Belgium, but then I realised there was no chance for these children, who had no income and were allegedly “dangerous”, to get a visum. And so I chose to go the other way around with Belgian actors: we would travel to Congo and perform there. The idea started to grow to first work in Congo with child soldiers, and then in Belgium with asylum seekers. Far away from each other, these population groups are wrestling with the same problems. Over there, children are the victims of weapon traffic and the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, while here, under capitalism, people live in poverty. 

    • 20.11.2019
      20:00
      KVS, Brussels
      KVS BOL
    • 21.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      KVS, Brussels
      KVS BOL
    • 22.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      KVS, Brussels
      KVS BOL
    • 23.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      KVS, Brussels
      KVS BOL
    • 26.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      NTGent, Gent
      Schouwburg
    • 27.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      Mars Mons arts de la scène, Mons
      Théâtre le Manège
    • 28.11.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      Mars Mons arts de la scène, Mons
      Théâtre le Manège
    • 06.12.2019
      20:15 - 21:55
      Theater Antigone, Kortrijk
    • 07.12.2019
      20:15 - 21:55
      Theater Antigone, Kortrijk
    • 10.12.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      Toneelhuis, Antwerpen
      Bourlaschouwburg
    • 11.12.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      30CC, Leuven
      Schouwburg
    • 13.12.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      Le Central, La Louvière
      Le Théâtre
    • 14.12.2019
      20:00 - 21:40
      Le Central, La Louvière
      Le Théâtre