The grass is greener on the stage | Lies Pauwels

Because we simply need to hang on tight. Artistic identity is becoming a creative accessory of the system. More and more we are becoming creative deputies, rather than artistic personalities. Triggered by the maintenance of a system called society, we risk getting alienated from ourselves as human beings, but also from ourselves as artists.

I believe it is important to not underestimate the representation of human content in theatre. This comprises values that are ancient and universal. Values that are far from original, sometimes even cliché, but ubiquitous and always applicable. Thematically, theatre can only repeat itself. The quality of an artist is to respond with his or her own life and insight – rational and emotional – to this complex matter. Theatre is maybe the last place where you can take part in an existential celebration of humankind. This wonderful party between life and death. The denial and the acceptance of the paradox on the same evening.

Artists don’t have the responsibility to co-design the future. Or at least they should not feel obliged to do so. It bothers me that well-intentioned opinion formers influence the artist’s discourse. It seems as if artists are supposed to consolidate the changes in society. But I ask myself how one can reflect on society if one has to accomplish it as well? I fear theatre that is hijacked by too much morality, with contours that are drawn by rules and guidelines, whether they are imposed by society or come from within the cultural circle.

I don’t want to imagine theatre buildings turning into intellectual shopping malls, battlefields for rational revolutionary happenings or venues for entertaining educational projects. Nothing against all this of course. One does not exist without the other. And I am sure that, in the eyes of some, even my work can be perceived in this respect as well. But I also see there is a lack of imagination, for instance in the choices we make. Too many see performance as an instrument of the model. A model that is trying to set up an artwork for its own policy and creativity. I think it is impossible to carry theatrical identity through a collective policy.

Being established and accepted is great, but not when it directs the content in this or that direction. It makes artists dependent and compliant, and compromises their work.

It is simple: I want to stay honest. I am a compassionate person and I believe in trust.

It can already be a lot if we simply touch on something that appeals to people. Where else if not in theatre can we still design the irrational, emotional bottom line of being a human being, the emotional blueprint of our human identity in this more than complex world?

Beside the fact that creativity and ideas are the cultivation soil for theatre, for me, theatre is very much a framework for everything we don’t know, a circumference of our fears, irrational behaviour, unconsciousness, consolation and so on. And the theatre space is the convention in which we present all this. Theatre sustains life. Theatre doesn’t have to change the world, but it has to achieve an exchange with the world.

For me, theatre is a ‘sense’ that has not become a ‘concept’ yet. It is an attempt to formulate the human condition without naming or explaining it. Theatre is so meaningful if it can leave things unsaid and when it is not designed for better ‘comprehensibility’. Strangely, this may allow us to comprehend the paradox of our existence better.

And now why theatre in some other words:

To shut up and sit down
and listen, wait and see
hearing the previous requiem
look at the upcoming madness
all turning into some expression
not knowing where to end up
to re-invent the transformation
and the inconvenience – of the world
no milk today
question today and the world,
and the words, and the people
transfer the emotion
and dance with the questions
and be quiet
be in charge
you are the audience
you have unlimited access to my artist’s soul
blending with my secrets
having the access to my sensitiveness
knowing where the wild things are
which part is crushed
which contingent potency I gain out of my sadness
the truth redirected
to find some potential transformation
it doesn’t matter if you don’t recognise it
you have to know
the grass is greener on the stage
watch out
some uninvited mythology might fall into your lap
a choreography of human thoughts
a sculptural sensation in a complex whole
that is why the doors are closed
good for you to know that things will not be resolved
but no worries
the world outside still exists,
that much is true
maybe a bit bitter and quite confused
but it is still turning,
not like you
you are seated
your seat is on row B chair 7
it is a central position
it is from your point of view it all exists
it is your own unpredicted truth spread out
and your own kind of lies
your deceptive package
do not feel guilty if you do not understand the shit
shit happens
you only missed the change to see what was happening
and maybe you missed the contribution to the stage
nothing more nothing less
the deeper meaning is not the same for everyone
but if it happens that you find yourself
in the middle of the world we created
tell us how it is
I am curious
feeling melancholy
seeing melancholy
living melancholy
hurray for the whole cast
the transformation of the world into its impotence
the transformation was
again as always… transformation
in this space where it is possible to disappear
but you know there is a risk in what I do
I dare madly to fall flat on my face
and I am shy
oh so shy
why do I risk so much
why theatre
I think I risk everything to recognise what I don’t know
for my own sake and any inner state of being.

Lies Pauwels is a Belgian director and actress. She worked closely with Alain Platel and Arne Sierens. Since 2001, she has concentrated mainly on her own theatre creations for which she works largely on the basis of controlled improvisations. In 2013 she started her production company Sontag. Her performances have been performed internationally and she is often asked to make creations abroad.