Last year, the Malta Festival launched a new programming section titled Portrait of an Artist which presents the works of outstanding contemporary theatre makers and authors. The Malta Portraits aim to show projects that are getting a lot of attention but can rarely be seen in Poland live. The programme also features theatre and music (co)productions, as well as meetings with artists and their collaborators.
The artist portrayed in 2022 is Luk Perceval, award-winning director and actor. An icon of contemporary theatre, he is one of the most renowned members of the Flemish Wave: a generation of artists who revolutionised European theatre and dance in the 1980s, making an impact on the stage language of subsequent generations of theatremakers. Since then, Perceval’s theatre has evolved, experiencing various fascinations and new openings. The director has constantly challenged himself, surprising us with precision, simplicity and refinement. He captivates viewers with the poetics of conciseness at textual level, with exceptional dedication to the detail of the overall sound effect and with his actors’ teamwork.
Luk Perceval’s performances have been shown in Poland on several occasions. One of these was the 2010 Malta Festival Poznań Flanders Idiom, where he presented The Truth about the Kennedys. Last year, he also directed 3STRS in Poland (coproduced by TR Warszawa and Teatr Stary w Krakowie), for which he received the Konrad Swinarski Award.
The presentation of Luk Perceval’s work at the 2022 Malta Festival Poznań is a continuation of our collaboration with the Flemish NTGent theatre, directed by Milo Rau, the star of last year’s Portrait of an Artist. Since 2018, Perceval has been the director-in-residence at NTGent, after his return to his native country from Germany, where he had lived and worked for two decades. The first work he has directed at NTGent is a spectacular tale about Belgium, conceived as a theatrical triptych.
The Sorrows of Belgium, or the history of Belgium in three chapters
The Sorrows of Belgium trilogy consists of three plays about the dark pages of Belgian history. The first instalment, Black, is dedicated to the exploitation of Congo by King Leopold II. Yellow is about the Second World War and the Flemish collaboration with the Nazis, whilst Red focuses on the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels. The titles of the particular parts are a reference to the three-colour Belgian flag, whilst the whole tale is a moving and, at times, surreal story about a paradoxical country, which is the political heart of today’s Europe. A nationless, internally divided state, where only a small share of the population identifiy themselves as Belgians.
According to Malta programmer Dorota Semenowicz: In the context of Perceval’s work and the Flemish Wave as a whole, "The Sorrows of Belgium" is unique. It is a clearly defined story about Belgium, the country which Luk Perceval had left and to which he returned … [Trilogy] is not, however, an overtly political theatre. Nor is it intended to point the finger at anyone. It is a story about the great aspirations of a small country, about people in the melting point of history, about macro politics and everyday life. You can read more about Luc Perceval’s’ work HERE.
Talking about his work on the trilogy, Luk Perceval emphasises the need to awaken a sense of responsibility: not only collective but, above all, individual. To him, this is one of the key functions of theatre. He believes that it is very important for us today to stop saying that the whole responsibility lies with the politicians.
Portrait of an Artist: Luk Perceval is part of Świat w uścisku / World Held Tight / СТИСНУТИЙ СВІТ, a programme which outlines this year’s main theme of the Malta Festival. It was developed in response to the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border, to the racism behind the crisis, which is also a manifestation of extreme social divisions and cultural conflicts, as well as the war which Russia is waging in Ukraine.
Belgium is a country whose borders were arbitrarily determined in the 19th century; a country that suffers from extreme internal conflict; a former colonial empire; the destination of mass migration. This makes Belgium a lens which brings together the problems facing all of Europe. How do you talk about these problems with understanding, with care, without stereotyping and simplification? What does the past tell us about the present? What prospects does it offer for the future?
The Malta Festival will be the first venue to show all the instalments of The Sorrows of Belgium together. The day-long event will feature three plays, special refreshments and a meeting with the director. Ticket information will be announced soon.