Every time you start a project it feels like the first day of school
For actors Louise Bergez and Lucie Plasschaert, starting a new project feels like the first day of school, creating it feels like building a relationship, and ending one feels like a breakup. Before beginning Gruis/ aan de twijfel, at NTGent, we sat down with them to discuss the project, isolation and connecting on and off of the stage.
What can we expect from Gruis/ aan de twijfel?
Louise: Gruis/ aan de twijfel is based on the works of the author Willem Frederik Hermens. Jesse Vandamme, the director, is making the script. It is about people who are stuck. Stuck not doing anything, although they are trying to.
Lucie: The characters took peace with one part of their lives, but at the same time are resisting it all. They are not actually happy but are seeming happy.
Louise: I feel like today everyone is also a little bit stuck, wanting to do a lot because there are so many things happening in the world, you literally don't know where to begin, or how to move forward.
You both have worked with Jesse for many years now, are you excited to start this next project with him?
Lucie: The way Jesse works is super personal. He takes everything out of an actor and challenges you, in ways that not a lot of directors can do.
Louise: I love his focus and his extremeness in how he works, but it is also hard sometimes. We are a group, so we talk a lot about how we work and how we are supposed to work with each other. There is safety, which is the most important thing.
What are your processes for collaborating to develop this work?
Louise: When I first read the book, I sent Jesse this long email of things that I saw or felt, to begin the dialogue. When I read something for the first time, I always think that everything that comes to me then is most important. It is the first link, therefore the most intuitive.
Lucie: Playing, for me, is all about ‘playing’. The most beautiful thing I can see on stage is when people are playing together as if they are children. I love when you are in connection with another person who is standing in front of you and also trying to make a world with you. In this world that we live in now, focused on individuality and images, this process is almost contradictory. To me, that is also why playing and theatre are still super important, because it is about being together in a place, and making a world that you share with other people. In making this work, it is also going to be about creating a language which we all speak and want to share.
Does this method of playing help to build connections with one another?
Louise: I find it much easier to make connections when I play. That is the place where I can get out of isolation. In daily life, I feel stuck in my head. When you are imagining things, being creative, talking, and playing with other people, you feel a connection that is difficult to find in real life. Even sitting at a table, sitting with friends, I can go so far back in my own head. It is something I do, isolate myself, Lucie doesn't do this as much, I think.
Lucie: No, I have the opposite, where I want to have the feeling that you have on stage with people all of the time. Yesterday I texted a friend that I would love to have the superpower to be super social in every single situation and just naturally connect with people conversationally. I told my friend, ‘I want that superpower, fuck flying.’
What do you expect from the first time that the five of you will be all together on the stage?
Louise: Ups and downs, lefts and rights. Getting stuck, getting angry at each other probably.
Lucie: That is a big part, which is funny when you think of it. Being together and doing all of these things is amazing but it is also a lot of fighting, crying, sharing everything, and sharing too much.
Louise: It is a bit like going into a relationship for a few months, an intense relationship. You always feel very empty when you have to let it go. For me, it feels like a breakup.
Lucie: Because you invested so much, building the work together, the world together, the microcosm. It is almost like a baby.
Is it difficult to connect outside of that world during that time?
Louise: That is always the case for me. I sometimes feel like I'm in the circus. In the circus, you go by project, and this is also the way I live. Where the project goes, I go. At the same time, I am also fighting this way of living. Sometimes I think I should find a balance, a way to have a life at home. This, for me, is much more of a struggle than feeling like the circus car is leaving and I am on it. But that is also a choice maybe.
Lucie: I don't think so, I think it is necessary, it always absorbs you in that way. Your whole focus goes on that, so there isn't much space for anything else. It is really like a relationship, like building a baby. Then you have to share it, which is the scariest part. But at the same time you want to show people, you need to show people what you made. The cool part about theatre is that people think it is all about the text and the way you're playing it, but actually, it's about the construct. It is not only if someone wrote a good text, but how we all connect. You feel it in how you play and you feel it in the audience.
That seems to demand a lot of trust, in each other, in the project, in the audience…
Louise: I read something recently that said, ‘Let the role be’, ‘Let the material be.’ This is beautiful because it is all about trusting the material. Not fighting just to fight, but fighting for the things that you find beautiful and important. If I try too hard to carry the story, it doesn’t always work, but if I trust the material, if I trust the fact that it is going to tell what needs to be told, then I can stop fighting. Similarly, children just really trust what they are playing.
Lucie: And they are building it together. It is also beautiful that when children are playing, nothing is weird, and everything is super safe. Every time you start a project it feels like the first day of school. The night before, you are freaking out, and super nervous. It is a new first day, in a new environment, with new rules, and new conversations. Then, you are bound to work together so you have to make it work. This is the same feeling that I had in primary school, saying, ‘we happen to be the same age and our parents happened to put us in the same school for some reason, so we have to be friends in a way because we are in this place.’ I think it is beautiful that it is circumstantial, but we were chosen to work together for some reason