Exclusive Q&A with FC Bergman
The Belgian theatre company FC Bergman consists of six actors/theatre-makers/artists: Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Bart Hollanders, Matteo Simoni, Thomas Verstraeten and Marie Vinck. Founded in Antwerp in 2008, they have quickly developed their own theatrical language, which apart from being anarchistic and slightly chaotic, is essentially visual and poetic. The members of FC Bergman are individually involved in various other theatre productions, TV projects and films.
Ahead of their Austrian premiere of 300 el x 50 el x 30 el Thomas Verstraeten offered us a detailed look at the company and their upcoming show on March 6 and 7 at TQW / Halle E, in which they will put 13 guest actors, 80 extras from Vienna and an entire village on stage. This village is gripped by the fear of an imminent flood. What happens inside the houses is shown on a large screen. A live event takes shape, a visual spectacle unfolds. Theatre and film spectacularly interwoven.
FC Bergman (c) Frieke Janssens
Wordless Symphony of Images
TQW: How would you describe your work to someone who has not seen you before?
FC BERGMAN: It is always difficult to make a conclusive description of your own work, which is probably more a job for theatre scientists and critics. But hereby an attempt: First, we make performances with a preference for existential themes. We see humans as beings that firmly believe in the possibility of shaping his/her life, and by extension the world, but repeatedly is doomed to fail in this attempt. It's not the failure but more the determined belief in the possibility of succeeding, which touches us deeply. In addition to that, our performances are usually created as a wordless symphony of images that hopefully reach all senses. We hope to speak a language that goes beyond the intellectual understanding, a language that goes straight to the guts.
Healthy Dose of Anarchy
TQW: Your productions are the result of collaborative work. The "FC" in your name is a reference to the "collective mind". Is every step, every idea in your group developed in common or how would you describe the working process?
FC BERGMAN: Due to the rather large scale of our performances, it's impossible to create every idea or make every decision together. Within our company there is at each stage of the creative process a non-pronounced hierarchy between the different members of FC Bergman, yet there is also a healthy dose of anarchy to take that hierarchy down. The collective is to be found in the idea that we work without one leader and that we outline the broad direction of our company together. Above all that we work together with a great faith and confidence in the various talents of the very different members of the group. We meet in the cherishing of that wealth.
Our working process differs from one performance to another. We always start from one source of inspiration, usually a work of our broad art and cultural history. It is a catalyst that triggers our imagination. In the case of 300 el x 50 el x 30 el the biblical story of Noah's Ark was our starting point. The sequel is a long period of brainstorming sessions ranging from the intuitive creation of images to the development of a comprehensive dramaturgy. Sometimes this thinking process culminates in a fully written script; sometimes we allow more space for discoveries in the rehearsal room. In a final stage, we try to forge the invented scenes, characters and images into one performance.
300 el x 50 el x 30 el (c) Sofie Silbermann
»God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt.«
TQW: The title of your production - 300 el x 50 el x 30 el - refers to the biblical story of Noah's Ark in the Old Testament. There, it is written: »God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. […] God instructed Noah to build an ark, which is three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high (300 el x 50 el x 30 el), to escape the perishing world.« How is this reflected in your play? Do you have a similar view on the current state of the world?
FC BERGMAN: You will definitely find this way of reflecting the world in 300 el x 50 el x 30 el. It is the lens through which our various characters look at their lives and community. We, as creators of these characters, have a less pessimistic view on the world. We have compassion and understanding for our anxious characters who each in their own way try to fight their sinful nature.
300 el x 50 el x 30 el (c) Sofie Silbermann
TQW: 300 el x 50 el x 30 el is often described as »a theatre play about things you can’t see«. Do you agree?
FC BERGMAN: To be honest we actually don't know very well where this subtitle is coming from. Through the years of performing it’s probably added to the title. Presumably, it's a reference to the way the performance is conceived: as a kind of voyeur our camera films through the back the interiors of the houses. This way the audience discovers the secrets of the various inhabitants, which normally remain hidden behind the facades.
Edited by Raffaela Brundiers and Julia Aßl