Much of my work starts from a certain darkness

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Princess Isatu Hassan Bangura is a performer and theatre-maker. Her search for freedom seems to be the thread throughout everything she creates. We sat down with her at NTGent and talked about her role in Grief & Beauty by Milo Rau. ‘I’m not fond of minimalism’, she said before we began talking. Instead, she told us all about absurdism, death, and surreal worlds. Join us on this journey through the twists and turns of Princess Isatu Hassan Bangura and enjoy.

You graduated this year. What has happened since then?

Not so much. I rehearsed for Grief & Beauty and performed my graduation project, Graveyard Romance, a couple of times. I took a little vacation and planned the upcoming year.

I like to create surreal worlds



Your graduation project was about a woman’s journey through death, life, and the unknown. Could you tell us more about that?

Much of my work stems from certain darkness. I am very fond of absurdism, art and theatre, and life in general. I like to create surreal worlds where another language is spoken, where unknown characters exist, where there are no limitations. The woman in my performance was searching for a certain kind of freedom through the idea of death because I sometimes believe that we humans can only truly be free after we die. She communicates with the audience through a certain rhythm that is bound to my African heritage. I view my performances as a journey, a dream-like journey that I partake in with the audience. We go to sleep, dream and then we wake up again. Sometimes you wake up not remembering what you dreamt that night. Sometimes a feeling lingers that you cannot describe, and that’s OK: you don’t always have to be able to put everything into perspective. Sometimes the experience is enough.

Graveyard Romance is like a journey we take together


Now you play in Grief & Beauty by Milo Rau, how is that? 

Grief & Beauty deals on the topics of euthanasia, death, loss, grief, and the beauty of it all. It is part biographical and part fictional. It is a journey through the acceptance of fate and total surrender to it. I tell parts of my story about my move from Sierra Leone to The Netherlands and what I went through over the years and all the things I have left behind. 



Topics such as death, loss, farewells, and mourning are very much in this piece, but they also recur in your own performances...

Yes [laughs], they are interesting subjects. I am always looking for freedom, but I never manage to find it by just being happy or joyful. You learn more about yourself in difficult situations. So you could say that you learn your strength after a big loss. How do you deal with that pain? I just do and also through the absurdity of the performances that I create.  Milo and I both kind of work from the same topics and, although our theatre form is different, we both try to tell each story and each topic in its most authentic way possible and that is why this collaboration is so interesting and good.

You could say that you learn more about your strengths after a big loss

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

For now, I am going on tour with Grief & Beauty. In between the tour, I will be creating and directing some upcoming performances in collaboration with Winternights festival Limburg, Likeminds Bedankt! and Cafe COVAR.  

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