We went to see “Mais il n’y a rien de beau ici”, a play co-authored by two Belgian playwrights, Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven and Geneviève Damas, who performed it themselves on stage. It happened right on 26 September 2014, the European Day of Languages. It was the right choice to end the day.
We did not know what to expect exactly. The play, as announced on the poster, was inspired by the place where the authors live. It is Schaerbeek, one of the multicultural municipalities of Brussels. The place, metaphorically called “La cage aux Ours”, generates fear among the inhabitants living outside Schaerbeek. It is the natural fear of unknown, which leads to stereotypes, in reaction to the need of labelling a place where people with different cultural backgrounds live.
Years ago the authors decided to face the challenges of moving to a sort of “rundown” area to experience the cultural richness of such a place.
The play was built on a well-crafted series of sequences where emotions, images, words and music went very well together. The authors introduced a number of portraits of their neighbours, whose photos were also projected on a screen to make the acting more credible. The music, performed live by Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, complemented the attempt of sharing a cultural space and its people’ way of living.
The emotions went on through a wide range of stages, from sadness to joy and laughter.
The authors’ street appears to sum-up a number of cultures, which live together and interact naturally to enable one discover meanings, beliefs, habits and assumptions.
Very impressed with the artistic performance of Geneviève Damas and Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven. It was worth spending the evening at Centre Culturel de Schaerbeek. And to make the story sharing more touching the two performers welcomed us from the stage when the theatre room opened. While waiting for people to get to their seats the two actors picked some of our first names, one by one, and improvised short pieces of music inspired by the meanings of the letters that make the names. An original way of introducing the audience to the play subject.
After the performance we met Alain Berenboom who shared impressions about Romania where he went to launch Primejdii în regat, the Romanian version of his book “Périls en ce royaume”. Another opportunity to share views and ideas on multiculturalism.
For a moment the time had no dimension and we enjoyed a piece of Schaerbeek and its people. We rediscovered ourselves among the portrayed people as Belgium welcomed us some 14 years ago.