Frank Van Laecke, Steven Prengels, Alain Platel
E N A V A N T , M A R C H E !
For En avant, marche! the directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel have taken inspiration from the tradition of musical groups which for decades have been part of the social and cultural life. The musical direction is in the hands of Steven Prengels. At every venue, the four actors and seven musicians will be joined by a local brass band or marching band on stage.
A miniature society
Music clubs – brass and other wind bands – have been part of the social and cultural life for decades. In 2012, this inspired the Huis van Alijn museum in Ghent to present a much appreciated exhibition of photos and traditional objects from past and present, under the title En avant, marche! In cooperation with Stephan Vanfleteren and other photographers, this also led to a book of photos, containing both new portraits of musicians and majorettes and black & white pictures from the archives.
Now, under the same title – En avant, marche! – it is the directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel who, together with the composer Steven Prengels, have taken inspiration from this tradition. This is their first joint production since Gardenia, the theatre production that brought them so much success at home and abroad in 2010, among other places at the Avignon Festival and in Great Britain, where it was nominated for the prestigious Olivier Awards in 2012. For this new production, Van Laecke and Platel approach the world of music clubs as a ‘miniature society’ in its own right: a collective of very different individuals who try to keep to one and the same marching direction. An arrangement that is kept as well as possible, sometimes by trial and error, and as such is a metaphor for our society as a whole.
A broad musical palette
En avant, marche!The title evokes a musical universe of binary time signatures and staccato rhythms, with parades in major and funeral processions in minor. Anyone who recently saw tauberbach(directed by Alain Platel, musical director Steven Prengels) will know that Steven Prengels’ palette is broader than that, much broader. A few months before the rehearsals of En avant, marche! started, Prengels said: ‘There will probably be a march in the performance, but we especially want a great deal of experimentation: differentiated sounds, soundscapes, layered sound, etc. We want to create a performance in which the action on stage develops as much as possible out of the music. In addition, we do not limit ourselves to the march repertoire. Alain Platel is happy to take inspiration from the well-known classical repertoire, and in this project this is mainly music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Ranging from Ludwig Van Beethoven, Giuseppe Verdi and Gustav Mahler to the Brabançonne. We arrange this music, sometimes for brass and percussion, sometimes just for singers… For the orchestration, apart from drums, I particularly want to use brass instruments: trumpet, horn, bugle, euphonium, tuba. This will lead us away from the triumphal celebratory music with which a wind orchestra is often associated.With instruments like the tuba and horn we can go very deep, very intense, almost like a chorale.’
Of the performer-musicians Steven Prengels says: ‘Apart from the actors we want an ensemble of seven musicians on stage. The actors will join in too and the musicians will join in the acting. We are also cooperating with the renowned brass band De Leiezonen, which also played in Aida at NTGent (directed by Frank Van Laecke). They will record several pieces on tape, which we shall then incorporate into the soundscape. Finally, we will work togheter with local brass bands and marching bands at the venues where we perform En avant, marche! All these components together form the basic material with which we will experiment during rehearsals.”
Steven Prengels knows the world of brass bands through and through. He played in one when he was a child and later conducted it. The title En avant, marche! indicates that music is a driving force in the lives of the people on stage. And something they can hold on to. ‘Music as a metaphor for something that transcends the anecdotalism of a brass band. Something much bigger, perhaps society, or life as a whole.’