Troubleyn | Jan Fabre

Belgian rules/Belgium rules



Welkom in België!
Bienvenue en Belgique!
Willkommen in Belgien!


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Theatre lay at the birth of this small country, and theatre is what this small country shall remain. Belgium is a country that is bursting with bureaucracy and forced formality. An artificial and unstable state, used as a stage for the wars of others. Everyone (and no one) speaks three languages. Three regions cover and divide this tiny territory. Welcome to Absurdistan!

Belgians feed and feast on life. Chips! Beer! Waffles and chocolate! They revel in flesh. They dance with death. They believe in big bands, masks and carnival. This dwarf state is great in grand parades of giants.

Here the image guides you, where words whither. A small country forces you to look beyond borders. Imagination has always been an escape route. Grey skies and rain create a grateful canvas. Belgium forms a fertile soil for visual art.

Belgians strip reality. They share the eternal wink with their beloved characters from the bande dessinée. With their wit as weapon they wage war and maintain peace. Irony, but never cynicism, forms their armour. The Mannekens piss communally. No one laughs as loudly with the Belgians as they with themselves.

Belgium is a country of surrealists. Sur-real and sub-versive, they stack alternate realities upon each other. O dear Belgium, O (un)holy land of our fathers. Ceci n’est pas un pays.

This cockpit country is a frigid follower of rules and rulers. Here lives a race of shirkers and cheaters. They bend the law and stretch the order. The Belgian blood is bursting with resourcefulness and independence.

But the Belgians are peaceful anarchists: over a glass of beer, with an open mind and an open view, the credo of the compromise reverberates. They burrow – up until their knees in clay, in this rugged potato land.

Belgians carry a brick in their stomach. Flowerbeds and frilly curtains guard their sovereignty and singularity. Long live that legendary ugliness! Breaking through that banana smile doesn’t seem easy. But underneath the hedgehog’s prickly spine, behind the constant sighing, there is a soft, strokeable skin.

Don’t be caught off guard by the flags and the swaying of banners, by the booming bash you’re invited to join. The parable of this strange kingdom is not a story of nationalism – rather a story about the total absence of nationalism. Belgians are proud of their lack of pride.

This misshapen, misplaced and mutilated country constitutes the magnificent middle point of Europe. Roll up the shutters and find a window onto this laconic land. Peer through the frame and see much more of the world beyond Belgian borders.


Jan Fabre pays homage to his motherland. Just as Fellini made his Roma, Fabre wants to celebrate his complex, crazy country. He uses the language best suited to grasp the spirit of this slippery state: that of theatre, that of the image. An international cast of performers and musicians searches for the Belgian identity and translates it into a travelling dance and theatre performance. Singer-songwriter Raymond van het Groenewoud provides the anthems; author Johan de Boose writes the text.


Performers: Annabelle Chambon, Cédric Charron, Lore Boremans, Anny Czupper, Conor Thomas Doherty, Stella Höttler, Ivana Jozic, Gustav Koenigs, Chaira Monteverde, Pietro Quadrino, Annabel Reid, Ursel Tilk, Irene Uriciuoli, Kasper Vandenberghe, Andrew James Van Ostade.

Concept and direction: Jan Fabre
Text: Johan de Boose
Music: Raymond van het Groenewoud (Belgian Rules and Vlaanderen Boven/Wallonie d’abord), Andrew Van Ostade (all other music)
Dramaturgy: Miet Martens
Assistance dramaturgy: Edith Cassiers
Costume design: Kasia Mielczarek, Jonne Sikkema, Maarten Van Mulken, Les Ateliers du Théâtre de Liège, Catherine Somers (carnaval hats)

Intern assistant director: Nina Certyn
Intern costume design: Monika Nyckowska
Intern P.U.L.S. (Project for Upcoming artists on the Large Stage): Timeau De Keyser

Technical management: André Schneider
Production management: Sebastiaan Peeters
Light technique: Wout Janssens
Stage technique: Randy Tielemans, Kevin Deckers 
Sound technique: Howard Heckers

Production: Troubleyn/Jan Fabre (BE)
Co-production: Napoli Teatro Festival Italia-Fondazione Campania dei Festival (IT), ImpulsTanz Vienna International Dance Festival (AT), Théâtre de Liège (BE), Concertgebouw Brugge (BE)

Troubleyn/Jan Fabre receives funding from the Flemish government and support from the City of Antwerp.