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Laugh and be gentle to the unknown

Nine performers reveal together the secret of Isabella’s room with as central figure the monumental actress Viviane De Muynck.

Isabella’s room contains a secret. It is the location of a lie. It is the location of the lie that dominates Isabella’s existence. This lie is an image. An exotic image. The image of a desert prince. Isabella is the daughter of a desert prince who disappeared on an expedition. This is what her foster parents, Arthur and Anna, told her. They lived together in a lighthouse on an island, where Arthur was the lighthouse-keeper. Like an island, the lighthouse is a transitional area: somewhere between the sea and the land, between solid and fluid, between inside and outside. The lighthouse is built on the land, but it yearns for the sea. Isabella yearns for the desert, the desert prince, Africa.

This is how the life-story of the blind old Isabella begins. But it soon becomes clear that a terrible, unutterable truth lies hidden beneath the story of the desert prince. Anna and Arthur cannot live with their secrets and escape into drink. Anna dies and Arthur throws himself into the sea. Isabella’s quest for her father, the desert prince, does not lead her to Africa but to a room in Paris, filled with anthropological and ethnological objects.

Isabella tells the story of her life, but she does not tell it alone. All those who were important to her tell it with her; the many in her life who had died: Arthur and Anna, her lovers Alexander and Frank. And not only do they tell Isabella’s story together, they also sing it. This is not the first time in a piece by Jan Lauwers that live music is played and that the actors sing, but it has never happened in such an open and inviting way as here.
(Erwin Jans)

Opening night
Cloître des Carmes, Festival d’Avignon
9 July 2004

With
Viviane De Muynck, Anneke Bonnema, Hans Petter Dahl, Julien Faure, Benoît Gob, Misha Downey/Ludde Hagberg, Sung-Im Her (replaces Tijen Lawton), Yumiko Funaya (replaces Louise Peterhoff) and Maarten Seghers.

Music
Hans Petter Dahl, Maarten Seghers

Costumes
Lemm&Barkey

Coproducers
Festival d’Avignon, Théâtre de la Ville ( Paris), Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse), La Rose des Vents (Scène Nationale de Villeneuve d'Ascq), Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York) and welt in basel theaterfestival.

With the cooperation of Kaaitheater (Brussels) and the Flemish Community Commission of the Brussels Capital Region.

Awards

* The prize for the best foreign performance, category dance. (Syndicat professionnel de la critique de théâtre, de musique et de danse”, France, June 2005)

* Selected for the Theaterfestival 2005 (Brussels, Amsterdam)

* The prize for “le Masque de la production étrangère”. (Foreign performance - Académie québécoise du théâtre, December 2005, Canada)