Kaputt! / 2009-2010

Theatre project with homeless people and soulmates.
For years, the Brussels homeless organisation Hobo had the tradition of performing theatre prepared from its weekly theatre workshop. These performances were rather small-scale. They were created with the regular participants of the workshop and presented to the regular audience ‘en petit comité’.

© Steffen Van Wymeersch

Growth trajectory

I stretched out this project in time to be able to work out a real growth trajectory. The Kaputt! project was opened up – not without resistance – to ‘soulmates’: people who had never been homeless themselves but who felt attracted to those who had been or were at risk of becoming homeless again. Several work stages, each of which was a showcase for an existing event somewhere in the city, paved the way for a performance on location in the Beguinage Church in Brussels. This place has a long history of church occupation by undocumented people. With the support of the priest, they fought a bitter battle for the recognition of their situation.

This performance arose from guided improvisations. It was accompanied by a gypsy orchestra. It contained projections, choreographies, dialogues, monologues. The total group of actors consisted of about twenty people, spanning three generations. Some parents had brought their children because they did not have a babysitter. These kids became actors as well.
As in the performance ‘Crossing’, the location was used as an opportunity to invite individuals and organisations to participate to make this performance playable in a church: theatre technicians in training, volunteers who wanted to spend the night in the church to help guard the equipment, caterers, ticket office, bar.

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Play Video

Click for video capture of the show by Pablo Castilla & Jean-Baptiste Dumont – Jack Media

Inspiration

The title ‘Kaputt!’ was a double reference. On the one hand, it referred to the famous book by Curzio Malaparte who, as a war reporter on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, wrote about the collapse of the old Europe.
On the other hand, the title referred to a well-known squatters’ restaurant in Brussels’ European quarter. In this ‘clandestine’ place, art, education, celebration and political action went hand in hand across many milieus under the motto: “Erst dass Fressen un dann die Moral!”.

The performance “Kaputt!” was created from a dining table situation: volunteer participants weekly cooked for a small fee for the whole group. The atmosphere was created at the table where I launched the topics which we then tried out on the rehearsal floor. The stage set for ‘Kaputt!’ was a long table at which the actors consumed the three courses of the menu that ran parallel to the three acts of the play: hunger, love and war.
The actors performed their play, waiting for the arrival of the then President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy. Like Godot, he never showed up, even though one of the actresses was prepared to sacrifice her son to the goddess Europa.

In the same church space, we also organised an exhibition of works by homeless people. The poster image was also made by one of them.
The stage backdrop was an enormous patchwork quilt. The sewing together of the blankets was done by the participants of the organisation’s sewing workshop.
As a logistical partner for promotion, rehearsal space and technical material, we received support from a local cultural centre.

Results

This project was later the unmistakable start of Fortiti’a, a more or less structural anchoring of the homeless theatre in Brussels in the open formula of “homeless people and soulmates”.

At the beginning of the project, I decided that I could not offer the participants from the world of the homeless anything in return other than the pleasure of eating a weekly meal in company. I wanted them to have a network after this project that also includes people from outside the world of the homeless. Various actors from ‘Kaputt!’ have continued to invest in such theatre and film projects ever since.
Commissioned by

Hobo and GC De Markten

With the support of
Flanders State of the art