For some people, no life is long enough to recover from the shock of love, not even if they live to be nearly a hundred.
Jan Lauwers presents a stage adaptation of Stefan Hertmans' compelling epic War and Turpentine. Just before dying in the 1980s, Hertmans' grandfather gave his grandson a couple of old exercise books full of writing. His grandfather's life turned out to have been marked by an impoverished childhood in pre-1900 Ghent, horrifying experiences as a soldier at the front in the First World War, and a great love who died young. Over the rest of his life, he transformed his sorrow into tranquil paintings. Hertmans' years of fascination with his grandfather's life ultimately led him to take up his pen and write this moving novel.
Lauwers presents a personal vision of the book, seizing on Hertmans' story to create an intense show about the advance of industrialisation, the violence of the First World War, love, happiness, sorrow and the secrets of a human life, set to a new composition by Rombout Willems.
War and Turpentine was made possible by Toneelhuis and the Festival de Marseille. The Province of West Flanders has also supported the project, as part of commemorations of the First World War Centenary.
Jan Lauwers (Antwerp, born 1957) is an artist who works in just about every medium. Over the past 30 years, he has become best known for his pioneering work for the stage with Needcompany, which he cofounded in Brussels in 1986. In the course of this period, he has also built up a substantial body of art work, which has been shown at BOZAR (Brussels) and McaM (Shanghai), among other places. From 2009 until 2014, Needcompany was artist-in-residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Jan Lauwers was awarded the 'Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria' in 2012. In 2014, he was awarded with the 'Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award' at the Venice Biennale. He is the first Belgian to receive this prize in the theatre category.
Lauwers studied painting at the Academy of Art in Ghent. At the end of 1979, he gathered around him a number of people to form the Epigonenensemble. In 1981, this group was transformed into the Epigonentheater zlv collective, which took the theatre world by surprise with its six stage productions. In this way, Lauwers took his place in the movement for radical change in Flemish and European theatre in the early 1980s - which would come to be called the Flemish New Wave - and also made his international breakthrough. Epigonentheater zlv presented direct, concrete, highly visual theatre that used music and language as structuring elements.
Jan Lauwers needs company. He founded Needcompany along with Grace Ellen Barkey in 1986. Together they are responsible for Needcompany's larger-scale productions. The group of performers Lauwers and Barkey have put together over the years is quite unique in its versatility. Since Needcompany was founded, both its work and its performers have been markedly international. And since that time, every production has been performed in several languages. Its first productions were still highly visual, but in subsequent productions the storyline and the main theme gained in importance. His work has been labelled as post-dramatic, and for the last few years he has been redefining this term. Among its most important characteristics are transparent, 'thinking' acting, and the paradox between 'acting' and 'performing'.
Directing, set design, stage adaptation: Jan Lauwers
Based on the novel "War and Turpentine" by Stefan Hertmans, published by Harvill Secker
Music: Rombout Willems
Viviane De Muynck
First Sergeant-Major Urbain Joseph Emile Martien - Benoît Gob
The Angel of History - Grace Ellen Barkey
Worker, Soldier, Maria Emelia Ghys, Sarah Lutz
Worker, Soldier, Maria Emelia Martien - Romy Louise Lauwers (replaces Mélissa Guérin)
Worker, Soldier, Relative - Elik Niv
Worker, Soldier, Relative - Maarten Seghers
Worker, Soldier, Relative - Mohamed Toukabri
General, pianist - Alain Franco
Chaplain, cellist - Simon Lenski
Soldier, violinist - George van Dam
All the paintings and drawings are by Benoît Gob
Costumes Lot Lemm
Dramaturgy, subtitling Elke Janssens
Lighting design Ken Hioco
Sound Ditten Lerooij, Dries D’Hondt
Production Management Marjolein Demey
P.U.L.S. Stage Bosse Provoost
Costume Assistant Lieve Meeussen
Fencing Instructor Jacques Cappelle
Trainee Josephine Dapaah
Set Building Toneelhuis
Set Dressing Simon Callens
Logistical Support Irmgard Mertens
Set, lighting Saul Mombaerts, Tijs Michiels
Dramaturgical introduction Erwin Jans
Press Agent Liesbet Waegemans for Panache
Photography Maarten Vanden Abeele
English translation of 'War and Turpentine' by David McKay
Tax Shelter financing:
Casa Kafka Pictures empowered by Belfius
Isabelle Molhant, Valérie Daems, Christel Simons
A Needcompany production. Coproduction: Toneelhuis (Antwerp), Festival de Marseille and Province of West Flanders. Produced with the support of the Belgian Federal Government’s Tax Shelter and the Flemish authorities.