SmallWaR Creator’s Notes

Valentijn Dhaenens, the creator and performer of 2016’s hit BigMouth, returns to the York Theatre stage with his new work, SmallWaR. Read on to discover the inspiration behind the companion piece to a show The Georgia Straight called “a mind-blowing celebration of the power of the human voice.”

BigMoutH (pictured above) was a smash hit of The Cultch’s 2015/16 Season

Photo by Inge Lauwers

SmallWaR Creator’s Notes by Valentijn Dhaenens

The idea for SmallWaR was born while touring BigMouth. I soon felt the urge to make a companion piece dealing with the reverse side of those historical speeches. In contrast to BigMouth’s sensational speeches, dynamic rhythm and mankind trying to be God, SmallWaR is about the small victims, the paralyzing standstill, and the trauma of being stuck in the mud. I grew up in the area of Flanders Fields in the early 1980’s and remember playing on those impressive Canadian, Australian, and British cemeteries. Once in a while, schoolmates living on farms would still find bomb-shells while playing on the ploughed fields of their family. I’ve always been fascinated by the First World War as a symbol for war in general. It was the first industrialized war – war as we still know it today. Tanks were invented, air bombing played a new crucial role, lung-hitting gas introduced first weapons of mass destruction and the ripped apart victims of it all allowed surgeons to experiment with the first plastic surgery.

SmallWaR became the necessary sequel to BigMouth. More than 80% of the speeches in BigMouth are directly or indirectly linked to events that led to war. Nevertheless, they’re speeches with wonderful words, where heroism is emphasized. Leaders try to convince the masses to go to war, then they praise the ones who died and pretend to be grieving with their families. While performing BigMouth, I felt more and more obliged to show the other side. There are millions of people who suffered the consequences of what was being said in those speeches. I felt the urge to tell these stories.

Photo by Inge Lauwers

The First World War proved to be the perfect backdrop to tell these stories. Not only because of the 14-18 commemorations. The First World War was the mother of all modern wars. It was the first time that killing had been industrialized. Modern warfare took shape back then and has barely changed since. And to me, after months of reading on the subject it seemed the most useless and meaningless of all wars. Its cause was preposterous – as if the world just felt like fighting. What most struck me in lots of soldier’s diaries was the difference between the sheer excitement and optimism about entering the war and then not much later the total horror of being stuck in the muddy trenches, fearing to die.

There has been so much literature, movies, poetry, and documentaries on the topic of war. As a theatre-maker, I felt compelled to explore the strongholds and laws of this medium in contrast to the other arts. Rather than depicting battle or reconstructing history, I found an opportunity to make an emotional reflection on the trauma and the repetitiveness of war, concentrating on the deadlock instead of the action. To whisper in fear as not to scream for blood.

SmallWaR runs at the York Theatre from November 6th-11th as part of The Ceasefire Series, an exploration of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI. To learn more about The Ceasefire Series and to get your tickets to SmallWaR click here.

SmallWaR image credit Daily Dolores


SmallWaR runs Nov 6-11 at the York Theatre. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Q&A with Titus de Voogdt from The History of the World (Based on Banalities)

A Q&A with Titus de Voogdt from The History of the World (Based on Banalities)

We are so excited to have the Belgian company Kopergietery here with their hit show The History of the World (Based on Banalities). It plays at the York theatre until May 5.

In The History of the World (Based on Banalities), a youngster, Philip, decides to look after his mother in the last months of her life. Starting from run-of-the-mill situations and objects, he embarks on a quirky voyage through her past.

Titus De Voogdt, the performer in The History of the World (Based on Banalities), is a beloved Belgian actor who works for theatre, film and television. He has worked/s with renowned directors as Arne Sierens (theater writer and director) and Felix Van Groeningen (movie director). He also starred as Vincent Bourg in the BBC-series The Missing (2014).

Titus De Voogdt in The History of the World (Based on Banalities). Photo by Phile Desprez

We are so excited to have you here in Vancouver. What makes you most excited about bringing this show to Vancouver?

I have never been here before. Vancouver always had an attraction on me, and I am very happy to finally be here. Besides, I love hiking and fishing so I hope I will get some opportunities in my free time to do so.

You are one of the co-writers of the show — what was the inspiration?

I’ve always been interested in inventions, how things work and stuff is made throughout history. That has been a key inspiration for writing this show.

While I was working on the script, Peter Higgs won a Nobel price for his work on the Higgs-Boson particle. It caught my attention and I started reading up on it. In this way it became a mayor topic in the show…

Your character, Philip, is interested in illusions and fantasy — do you share these interests with him?

I do, although I’m lousy at it, I like to do a coin trick from time to time..

What makes doing this show fun for you?

That it’s quite physical, it feels like a workout to me.

What makes doing this show meaningful for you? 

I hope people who see the show learn a thing or two about science they didn’t knew before. With a bit of luck it even moves them in the process.

Geoffrey Burton and Titus de Voogdt. Photo by Phile Desprez

The History of the World (Based on Banalities) features a musician (Geoffrey Burton- from Hong Kong Dong) who joins you on stage for the show — what is it like doing a show with live rock music?

It’s great, although he claims he is NOT a rock musician. It’s really a dialogue…the music brings the script to a higher level.

You do a lot of film and television work as well as theatre work — what are you working on these days?

Just finished a 12-episode series about a hostage situation in a bank it is called ‘de dag’ meaning ‘the Day.’  In Belgian TV an movies I usually play the bad guy. Don’t ask me why….

The History of the World (Based on Banalities) runs at the York Theatre April 25-May 5, 2018. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Award-winning La Merda makes its North American debut at the Historic Theatre

Award-winning La Merda makes its North American debut at the Historic Theatre

Photo by Marco Pavanelli

History in the making! After sell-out runs in Rome, London, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Sao Paulo, Madrid and Adelaide, Cristian Ceresoli’s La Merda, performed by legendary Italian performer Silvia Gallerano, opened at the Historic Theatre on May 2. Performed completely naked, Gallerano’s performance is powerful, desperate, vulnerable, and cutting. Don’t miss it; make sure you book your tickets soon!

See what local reviewers have to say about this provocative feminist work:

BOLDLY FEMINIST La Merda unleashes a stream of naked fury” – Kathleen Oliver, The Georgia Straight

“The character is NAKED in every sense. It’s brutal but absolutely RIVETING to watch” – Jo Ledingham, joledingham.ca

“[La Merda] is well worth queuing up for” – Lincoln Kaye, Vancouver Observer

“We in this Vancouver of complacency need to be KICKED IN THE BUTT. Last night Silvia Gallerano did a lot of that.” – Alex Waterhouse Hayward, alexwaterhousehayward.com

“She’s MESMERIZING” – Colin Thomas, colinthomas.com

Photo by Valeria Tomasulo

LA MERDA runs at the Historic Theatre, May 2-13. Book tickets online or by phone by calling The Cultch Box Office at 604.251.1363.

Presented with the Italian Cultural Centre

Italian Cultural Centre