Opening night: 3 April 2007 - Nieuwpoorttheater, Gent
We People: an extended cry of rage by a ‘lost’ generation
“To be a thorn in the side of society, as theatre once proclaimed itself to be, sometimes turns out to be unutterably decent. We the people, happily united in fiction. ‘We People’ does the opposite. ” (De Morgen)
The idea behind We People came from Zouzou Ben Chikha (Union Suspecte), after he read La Passion selon moi, a novel of fragments written by the mysterious French author Paul Smaïl. Zouzou was moved, in particular, by the short, razor-sharp passage about an elderly unemployed man of immigrant origins who could not bear the shame of his new job as a guide in a Smurf theme park, and committed suicide: “Longwy would rather hang himself that dress up as a Smurf.”
The story takes its starting point from a passage in a book by Paul Smaïl. The passage from La Passion selon moi contains the kernel of the play’s themes. What is the influence of work, and above all the loss of it, on your social and psychological life? The loss of a job means not only the loss of income, but also the loss of respect. In the world of the market and of competition, the contrasts are growing ever starker. A lack of prospects for a future with dignity leads many people to extreme acts. A person who has no work is left out of society. “To have or not to have a job” – that is the question. Unemployment is growing before our eyes today, and members of minorities are also frequently among the victims. There is a highly developed sense of honour among the social layers that are the subject of social discrimination, and is often a reaction to their situation: “though we may be dragged through the mud, at least we always hold our head up high”.
The play seeks the key moment where the loss of dignity becomes too heavy to bear, and the sense of honour suffers a fatal blow. When is a battle successfully won? It is not the screaming newspaper headline, but the healing of a family conflict that is interesting. It is shocking, but also human, to realise that everyone can be reduced to such a level of despair. Some perhaps more easily than others, but basically no one is immune: we are all walking on a tightrope. That realisation of each other’s weakness sound unite rather than divide us.
In ‘We People’, we combine real situations with a healthy dose of fiction and humour. A wry tale about fundamental questions, interpreted by two strong actors and a musician.
Production: Union Suspecte
In collaboration with KVS, Nieuwpoorttheater and CC Genk
Text: Ruud Gielens, Mourade Zeguendi, Zouzou Ben Chikha, David Strosberg
Director: Ruud Gielens
Dramaturgy: David Strosberg
Actors: Zouzou Ben Chikha and Mourade Zeguendi
Musician: Tim Gistelynck
Lighting design: Ruud Gielens
Light technician: Stéphane Vernimmen
Sound technician: Dimitri Joly
Posters: Sarashoot / Onsontwerp
Photos: Bart Grietens
With thanks to Hosni Zahri, Karel Clemminck, Haider Al Timimi
Click to see video abstract