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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Sezione Teatro EN (new)


Jan Lauwers & Needcompany (Belgium)

Tuesday October 11 at 9:00 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese
Needcompany (Belgium)
Isabella’s Room
by Jan Lauwers & Needcompany
script Jan Lauwers, except “The Liar’s Monologue” written by Anneke Bonnema
with Viviane De Muynck (Isabella), Anneke Bonnema (Anna), Benoît Gob (Arthur), Hans Petter Dahl (Alexander), Maarten Seghers (Frank), Julien Faure (The Desert Prince), Yumiko Funaya replaces Louise Peterhoff (Sister Joy), Sung-Im Her replaces Tijen Lawton (Sister Bad), Misha Downey replaces Ludde Hagberg (Narrator)
music Hans Petter Dahl, Maarten Seghers
song lyrics Jan Lauwers, Anneke Bonnema
dance Julien Faure, Ludde Hagberg, Tijen Lawton, Louise Peterhoff
costumes Lemm&Barkey
set Jan Lauwers
lighting Jan Lauwers
sound Dré Schneider
production Needcompany
a co-production of the Festival d’Avignon, Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse), La Rose des Vents (Scène Nationale de Villeneuve d'Ascq), Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York), welt in basel theaterfestival
with the collaboration of Kaaitheater (Brussels)
with the support of the Flemish Institutions
Isabella’s Room has won a series of awards – La Masque from the Académie Quebecoise de Theatre in Montréal, the award from the theatre music and dance critics’ association of France, the Grand Prize at the Festival of Sarajevo, among others – and has toured the world from Europe to Japan, from America to Korea. Still on tour, in 2010 Isabella’s Room was shown at the Bitef in Belgrade, in Novi Sad also in Serbia, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, at Saint-Denis and at the Poznan Festival in Malta, in 2011 in Copenhagen and Clermont-Ferrand. Isabella’s Room is therefore one of Jan Lauwer’s most enduring productions; created in 2004, more than any other it represents the aesthetics of this Flemish artist who cross-pollinates ideas from diverse disciplines: dance, theatre, plastic arts, music and film. A multiplicity of interests for which Jan Lauwers divides his time between galleries, museums, theatre and dance festivals: from Documenta X in Kassel, to Ballet Frankfurt upon invitation by William Forsythe, to the Salzburg and Avignon festivals, and the 59th Venice International Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia. Since 2009 he has been artist in residence at the Burgtheater of Vienna with his company, Needcompany.
Isabella’s Room, the first chapter in a trilogy on human nature entitled Sad Face/Happy Face, revolves around the figure of a 94 year-old blind woman, isolated in her room in Paris and obsessed by her memories. The unravelling of Isabella’s past and her mysterious secret, which evoke on stage the protagonists of her life who share her adventures and emotions, is interwoven with the collective history of half a century with its horrors, from World War I to Hiroshima. Between dancing, acting, and singing, the nine performers give voice and body to a polyphonic choir swathed in a fascinating dreamlike and mysterious atmosphere.
Isabella, as the performance notes explain, is the daughter of a desert prince, who disappeared during an expedition. This is what she was told by her foster parents, Arthur and Anna. They lived together in a lighthouse on an island, where Arthur was the lighthouse-keeper. Like the island, the lighthouse is a transitional area: somewhere between the land and the sea, between solid and fluid, between inside and outside. The lighthouse is built on the land, but it longs for the sea. Isabella ardently yearns for the desert, the desert prince, Africa. This is how the life story of the now old and blind Isabella begins. But it soon becomes clear that a terrible and unspeakable truth lies hidden behind the story of the desert prince. Anna and Arthur cannot live with their secret and seek refuge in alcohol. Anna dies and Arthur throws himself into the sea. Isabella’s search for her father, the desert prince, will not take her to Africa but to Paris, to a room filled with valuable ethnographic and anthropological objects.
It is this procession of loves, of lovers and of dead persons linked with the living, this wild and fully embraced desire not to put an end to things when the end of History began with Hiroshima, this undisguised enjoyment that we see portrayed on the stage by the actors, dancers and singers of Jan Lauwers' company.
And with them, all around the wonderful Isabella, played by Viviane de Muynck, we feel the breath of life in a way that we seldom do, when bodies and voices unite beyond death, to say simply and with a smile: 'We just go on, go on, go on'?.
Brigitte Salino, Le Monde, 13 July 2004
A reminder to announce the tour of the best show of the last year. Isabella‘s room, directed by Jan Lauwers. Viviane De Muynck - the greatest living actress? - leads Lauwers‘ dancers and actors in a ‘tragic musical comedy‘. All the audience has to do, with its eyes shut, or rather wide open, is follow the Needcompany on this crazy journey halfway between a dream and childhood memories.
Fabienne Arvers and Philippe Noisette, Les Inrockuptibles, 2 January 2005

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