Joris van den Brande: Extreme voices are essential to keep things going

Every week we present a segment of Smalltalk Here, a short chat with an artist at his favorite coffee shop. Today’s theater maker Joris van den Brande talks about his new performance Freedom Cluba monologue by a radical climate activist, and about his relationship with Brussels and the Bronx.

We meet theater maker and actor Joris van den Brande (43) at Café Au Laborieur on the Warkenmarkt. He spent several hours there, including with his Brussels companion, Joost Vandecastel, who was with him Sorry for every thing And the clash made. They met while studying at RITS, now RITCS, where they were in the same class. “We lived together in a flat not far from here, on the Hobstraat,” he says.

His first room in Brussels, at Leopold II-laan, provided a curious introduction to Brussels. “There was no shower or bathtub, just a sink. The owners were an old couple who wouldn’t let you bring girls in. I ended up walking.”

The first year in Brussels was also difficult for Van den Brande, coming from Wilrijk, for other reasons. “We weren’t in the student area, so I was a bit lost at first. But then I came to really appreciate the uniqueness of Brussels. In Antwerp and Ghent, you have a more defined art scene, whereas in Brussels at the same time, nobody’s home.” I’ve been here for eight years.”

He eventually moved to Merelbeke in Ghent for love, but of course kept coming back to Brussels over the years. Not least for performances at the Bronx Theater for Young Audiences, where he is a regular. “The Bronx also gave me my first chance, and helped launch my career,” he says. When working in the Bronks, Au Laboreur is also the perfect place to go before or between work, and not just because it’s so close. “There’s always a great mix of people here.”

On November 18, Joris Van den Brande will return to the Bronks with Freedom Clubproduced by ARSENAAL / LAZARUS and Het Kwartier, based on a script by Frick Marin, who also directs the play with Carl von Winckelmann. Freedom Club It deals with issues of extremist activity and is based on the story of American terrorist Ted Kaczynski, nicknamed “The Unabomber”. Since the 1970s, it has carried out bomb attacks in protest of technological developments in modern industrial society, under the name “The Freedom Club”.

The character played by Van den Brande is a climate activist who initially took the “classic” route – he went on a hunger strike and chained himself to pipelines – but then took a more extreme path. He sets up an amusement park where visitors can experience the consequences of climate change firsthand and then inadvertently unleash an even darker wave of resistance.

Thematically, you are in these times when climate activists are smearing and clinging to the top panels. Who knows what might happen on the sidelines of the climate summit in Egypt.
George van den Brande:
I recently talked about it with Freek (Mariën, ed.). Reality outperformed as it was. This is how I feel when I see how activists block private jets in Schiphol. When Fricke began writing the script about two years ago, the more extreme climate activism was less present. Now you notice that many activists, as well as ordinary citizens, are frustrated with the fact that so many people have been protesting climate change for so long, but that message just doesn’t seem to be getting caught. This is also one of the questions of the piece: What do you have to do to be heard?

Was it easy to get into your character? How far do you have an activist side?
Van den Brandy:
I don’t see myself as an activist, no. Sometimes I wish I could be more active. Sometimes I blame myself for this, but at the same time I also notice that I tend to see the complexity of things. This prevents me from standing on the barricades. To be truly activist, you need to stand up for one cause with sufficient clarity and be convinced that you are right. These extreme sounds are also essential to doing business BoogerOtherwise, you will remain stuck in the status quo. But it is also important for dialogue to start and sometimes I have the feeling that everyone is preaching to their diocese and they are getting more and more extreme towards each other. In this sense, it is also helpful to try to understand different points of view. to Freedom Club We don’t pretend to have a monopoly on the truth. We want to have the conversation.

It certainly isn’t the first time she’s contributed an article on a pressing social issue. That’s how you had it One-way About immigration and the interior shock On the Palestinian issue.
Van den Brandy:
I am not an activist, but a committed theater maker. My way of fighting misery in the world is to tell stories about it. When I make theater I always try to start from necessity, but this doesn’t have to be a social theme, it can also be a very personal story.

also Freedom Club It is ultimately a very personal story, in which a strong bond is made with the activist’s family life.
Van den Brandy:
There is the political dimension, but it also relates to the question of how far you can go in your idealism and what price you are willing to pay for it. In the play, the character’s activity comes into conflict with his family life. His wife is going through a difficult time and he ignores his daughter and says he is fighting for the future of the younger generation including his daughter.

© Evan Bot

What are the reactions of that younger generation to the piece? Do you have an insight into how much the subject appeals to them?
Van den Brandy:
I’m still figuring it out. But I recently asked the teachers about it after a performance and they told me it was shocking how little the guys did. They noticed some indifference. They saw a big difference a few years ago, before the Corona crisis, when the younger generation showed commitment and took to the streets for the climate. Of course I don’t know how general this is, but there was resignation on the subject in that group. Perhaps this is due to an overdose of bad news, with the war in Ukraine and the post-Corona energy problem. Well, I don’t want to speak for them.

You mostly play for a young audience. How much do you like to do that?
Van den Brandy:
My imagination is used more for a young audience. Theater is a kind of sanctuary where you can talk about taboos, play with absurdities, question things… This is related to the way young people see the world. They live in more wonder, ask more questions and search more about their place in this world. Also, their reactions in the stage are honest, direct, and very honest. They can be very fierce with her, but they also make it felt when they’re not. There are colleagues who think playing for youth is terrible, but I’ve always loved doing it.

Freedom Club is a soliloquy. So you are alone on the shelves. How is this not so bad?
Van den Brandy:
This is sometimes a confrontation with yourself as a player. You are face to face with the crowd, but your biggest struggle is with yourself. As soon as there is an awareness of what you are doing, a second voice begins to go along with it, which is not conducive. It’s been a long time since I’ve given a monologue.

Before we let him go, so he can recharge for the next encounter with himself, we’re quickly hearing about new projects. Van den Brande appears to have just written a play for the Aalst Compagnie Gardavoe, which will be staged next year. A revenge saga set in Belgium in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. About a victim of high-society sex parties (inspired by the so-called ‘Pink Ballets’) and backroom politics, with a role for the project developer who was the driving force behind the Brussels Manhattan plan: Charly De Pauw, aka King Parking. “It’s a bit of a Tarantino story, where I rewrote the history a little bit. I was careful in the sense that I didn’t want to add conspiracy theories to things that had a lot of false theories, so I changed all the names and the context a little bit. But there’s something in those issues that I want talk about it.”

Finally, he also seems to be grabbing a new performance with Joost Vandecasteele, and maybe even a podcast. “Podcasts seem like a perfect way to be able to chat about world affairs in complete freedom. Then a lot of nonsense is allowed to pass through, and sometimes some very interesting ideas.” (Laugh)

Freedom Club
18/11, 20.00, Bronx,

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