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INTERVIEW WITH WIM VANDEKEYBUS (ULTIMA VEZ)

4.12.2011

Ondřej Hrab, director of the Archa Theatre, interviews Wim Vandekeybus on RADICAL WRONG. The antiperformance by Ultima Vez will be on December 5 - 7.

YOU CAN USE EVERYTHING AGAINST ME

Radical Wrong is intended for adolescents and is performed by young people. One of the performers even yells out that Wim Vandekeybus is dead. Your name is crossed out on the program. You’ve even stated that you’re not really the director. Is that true?

When you work with young people and make a performance for their peers you’ve got to give them the chance to express themselves. Young people don’t respond well to authority, so if I wanted them to believe in the performance, I couldn’t limit them in any way. It’s their performance, which is why they put so much energy into it. I gave them direction, but at the same time I told them: you can use all of that against me. I played the role of someone who’s too old to be one of them, which I had to force myself to do a little, because mentally I still feel young. So, let everyone choose for himself.

The performance was created just a short time before the youth riots in London. Do you see a connection?

Only to a certain extent. Our performance does reflect the anger of the young generation and violence is also present. The dancers do things that are on the edge of self-destruction, but we’ve also got calm passages full of feeling. But we can find other connections too. In the summer, for example, my son attended a huge music festival in Hasselt. Suddenly there was a huge downpour, wind and rain tore up the stage and toppled trees. Several people were killed. It shows that nature is still stronger than young people’s emotions.

Your previous performance, Monkey Sandwich, which we presented at Archa last year, sharply divided audiences. The critics and a large part of the public loved it, but there were also people who yelled at me after the performance that they would never come to our theatre again. What’s the reaction been like to Radical Wrong?

Frankly, I’m happy when audiences express radical opinions. There’s nothing wrong when a performance shocks the audience. Young audiences see Radical Wrong as their own testimony and so I hope that in Prague the audience will mostly be made up of young people. The performance is full of energy concentrated in short sequences. It requires intense, but brief concentration, which I think suits young people. It’s also entertaining.

What about older audiences? Can they come too?

They’ll definitely also find something in it. Maybe they’ll say that it’s terrible what young people are like today, but maybe they’ll recognize themselves in the performance. I mean, they were young once too. And the music that we use in the performance is music from the 1980s, like Public Image Limited or the Beastie Boys, which young people hardly know at all. Recently we played in Moens, where the audience was basically older people. I thought to myself, oh God, how will this go? But it was great. They loved it! We discovered that the performance was really popular among women in their fifties, which in a way is kind of sexy.

We’re doing this interview in an airport while you wait for a flight to Venice, where a film version of Monkey Sandwich will be screened. How much does the film that you’ll be showing in Venice differ from the film that was part of the theatrical performance?

In the film version we strengthened the story of the main character, Jerry. We re-edited the whole film. Since the theatre version counted on an audience that is at the same time also watching what’s happening on stage, it had a different tempo from the film presented in the cinema. For the film distribution we also shortened it by about twenty minutes. The film was selected for the Horizons section of the Venice festival, which I’m really proud of, because it’s for films that the organizers consider ahead of their time.
By the way, I’m preparing a new performance for June of next year with Jerry Killick, who plays the protagonist in the film. We’re thinking about Archa. What do you say?

Interview by Ondřej Hrab

Wim Vandekeybus (*1963, Lierre) Belgian director, choreographer, dancer, photographer and director of the famous company Ultima Vez. Vandekeybus founded Ultima Vez in 1986, while he was staying in Spain. He first appeared on the international scene with a performance called What the Body Does Not Remember. Vandekeybus’ work typically features radical motion acting, driven by conflict, strength, instinct, “imaginary catastrophe” and clash between attraction and reserve. He masterfully uses text and dedicated music. For example, Ultima Vez danced to music composed specifically for them by avant-garde musicians such as David Byrne, Marc Ribot, Charo Calvo, Eavesdropper and David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horse Power, and also Woven Hand.

Czech audiences had the chance to see Ultima Vez for the first time in the Archa Theatre in 1995, when the company introduced its project Mountains Made of Barking. Since then, our viewers have had the opportunity to watch one of the world’s most prominent choreographers regularly. So far, Archa has offered the following performances by Wim Vandekeybus: What the Body Does Not Remember (1997), In Spite of Wishing and Wanting (2000), Scratching the Inner Fields (2002), Blush (2003), Spiegel (2006), nieuwZwart (2009) and Monkey Sandwich (2010).

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