Showing posts with label Valentijn Dhaenens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valentijn Dhaenens. Show all posts

Saturday, September 15, 2018

REVIEW: BIGMOUTH Launching Big in Belgium—Chicago Series at Chicago Shakespeare Theater Through September 22nd

Despots and demagogues, politicians and peacemakers, are all given voice in this powerful punch of a one man show.

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Chicago Shakespeare presents
Through September 22nd
Launching Big in Belgium—Chicago

Imagine a bank of nine varied microphones, and one intrepid traveler, embodying a host of diverse words from ancient Greece to modern America through speeches and song. Valentijn Dhaenens' one man show defies easy explanation. He pulls from a diverse and eclectic selection of voices like Socrates, Muhammad Ali, General Patton, Osama bin Laden, and more. His words are an eerie reminder that humanity has a long history of killing the wise and those championing both peace and revolution. His choices we're quite gender based, with only one ultra conservative, racist woman represented among a slew of men, but otherwise his speeches included a variety of races, ages, eras, and viewpoints.  

Dhaenens spent a year reading over a thousand speeches and embracing the synchronicity and patterns that emerged over the centuries. He's also got an uncanny ear for the perfect musical bridges to compliment his themes, all of which were also sung by him, though many also included music, looping and effects. 

This immersive one man show is as unique and creative as it is thought provoking. Without an overtly skewed agenda, Dhaenens has created the perfect vehicle for bringing out the similarities in enemies, showing terrorist's rational reasoning, and displaying just how little humanity has actually changed or evolved, in matters of propaganda and rational behind war, peace, wisdom and racism since 400BC. Highly recommended. 

Three pioneering events representing the next wave of boundary-pushing theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Big in Belgium—Chicago, a series of three acclaimed theatrical events representing the next wave of boundary-pushing European theater. Featured productions include a sweeping tribute to 2,500 years of oration, an engaging examination of free will—and the manipulation of it—in political elections, and a chilling look at tragedy and terror through the eyes of children. Curated by Chicago Shakespeare, Richard Jordan Productions, and David Bauwens, Big in Belgium—Chicago will be presented in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, beginning with BigMouth on September 12, 2018. All Big in Belgium productions are performed in English.

Launching Big in Belgium—Chicago is BigMouth (September 12–22, 2018), a tour-de-force solo performance by Valentijn Dhaenens, produced by leading Belgian company SKaGeN. Equipped with nine microphones, his voice, and indefatigable energy, Dhaenens weaves together some of the most revered speeches in history—from sermons and eulogies to declarations of war and love, from the likes of Socrates, Muhammad Ali, General Patton, Osama bin Laden, and more. Audiences are instantaneously transported across the millennia by Dhaenens’ virtuosic performance, illuminating the tricks of rhetoric that have remained unchanged since the dawn of language. BigMouth was the sell-out hit of the 2012 and 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, and has since played to great acclaim in major festivals worldwide. The Guardian declared, “Dhaenens employs not just his voice but his entire body to examine justice, war, racism, and retribution and to create a piece in which past and present are in a constant dialogue.”

Later this season, Big in Belgium—Chicago continues with Fight Night (October 23–November 4, 2018) from collective Ontroerend Goed, which returns to Chicago Shakespeare after A History of Everything in 2012, and the stirring Us/Them (January 22–February 3, 2019) from BRONKS.

A stinging examination of free will and politics staged by company founder and Artistic Director Alexander Devriendt, Fight Night immerses audience members (equipped with electronic voting boxes) in a showdown between five contenders vying for their votes. Employing a dizzying array of tactics and strategies, the candidates compete to survive a relentless succession of eliminations, and ultimately be crowned the elected victor. Blurring the lines between theater and interactive performance art, Fight Night is a hilarious, thought-provoking look at the mechanisms of democracy.

Rounding out Big in Belgium—Chicago is Us/Themacclaimed as the “unforgettable highlight of the Fringe” by The Telegraph when it debuted in Edinburgh, followed by a sold-out run at the National Theatre of Great Britain. Told through the viewpoint of two children, the production is a chilling look at the 2004 Beslan school siege by Chechen separatists in Russia, in which more than 1,100 adults and children were taken hostage and 334 lost their lives. Using intricate choreography and ingenious staging, Us/Them is not a recounting of the tragedy, but instead a compelling examination of the way young people cope with disaster.

Big in Belgium—Chicago is emblematic of Chicago Shakespeare’s rich tradition of importing the world's most exciting theatrical events to Chicago and exporting the Theater’s productions to global destinations through WorldStage at Chicago Shakespeare. To date, the program has featured more than 1,000 artists from 23 countries spanning six continents—including artists from South Africa, China, India, Belarus, France, Russia, and the UK. Many of the globe’s most iconic troupes have made Chicago their stage including: The Abbey Theatre from Dublin, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from London, the Chekhov International Theatre Festival from Moscow, La Comédie Française from Paris, and The Farber Foundry from South Africa. Chicago Shakespeare expanded the WorldStage programming in 2016 by spearheading the yearlong festival Shakespeare 400 Chicago, the largest international celebration of the playwright’s 400-year legacy.

More information on the Big in Belgium—Chicago series at

All three Big in Belgium—Chicago productions will be performed in English in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Single tickets ($38–$56) are on sale now. Save $5 per ticket when you book 2 or more Big in Belgium shows together. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets for patrons under 35. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at

BigMouth is created and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens. Joining Dhaenens on the creative team are Jeroen Wuyts (Lighting and Sound Design) and Barbara de Laere (Costume Design).

BigMouth is produced by SKaGeN and Richard Jordan Productions with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Big in Belgium, in association with De Tijd and STUK.

Fight Night is written and directed by Alexander Devriendt, Angelo Tijssens and the cast. The company includes Aaron Gordon, Abdel Daoudi, Angelo Tijssen, Aurélie Lannoy, Charlotte De Bruyne, and Michai Geyzen. Completing the creative team are Lilith Tremmery (Scenography, Light Design and Production), Babette Poncelet and Iben Stalpaert (Technicians), Sophie De Somere (Costumes and scenography), Cameron Goodall and David Heinrich (Music), and Nick Mattan (Graphics Voting System).

Fight Night is produced by Ontroerend Goed, The Border Project, Richard Jordan Productions, and Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Big in Belgium.

Us/Them is written and directed by Carly Wijs created with Thomas Vantuycom. The creative team consists of Stef Stessel (Designer), Thomas Clause (Lighting Design), Peter Brughmans (Sound Design), and Mieke Versyp (Dramaturg). The company includes Gytha Parmentier and Roman Van Houtven.

Us/Them is produced by BRONKS and Richard Jordan Productions with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Big in Belgium in association with Summerhall.

A global theatrical force, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is known for vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare’s genius for storytelling, musicality of language, and empathy for the human condition. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be, putting forward a company that delights in the unexpected and defies theatrical category. A Regional Tony Award winner, the Theater produces acclaimed plays at its home on Navy Pier, throughout Chicago’s schools and neighborhoods, and on stages around the world. In 2017, the Theater unveiled a new stage, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, The Yard positions Chicago Shakespeare as the city’s most versatile performing arts venue.

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