The Sheep Song

FC Bergman, Toneelhuis

A modern fable about the desire for change

In the leading role: a sheep. This most innocent of creatures is no longer content with itself. It feels it has greater potential, that it is destined for a life more glorious than that of its fellow sheep. It takes fate into its own hands in order to become human, starting with walking upright. All sorts of mythical creatures then cross its path. Some work against it, while others help it along its way. With colourful sets full of fabulous figures, this wordless piece takes the audience on a quest for the human. It is a modern fable about growing up and about the constant striving for more, better and further. At the same time, it is about the fear of inevitable change, in ourselves but also around us. It is a meditation on transformation as a fundamental mechanism of life.

Background information

‘Fables are one of the oldest literary instruments in our language area, tales that use animals to teach us moral lessons about good and evil. To what extent is it possible in our current age of fake news and alternative facts to take such a clear-cut, unequivocally moral position? The FC Bergman company asked itself this question when it decided to make a new piece in the form of a fable. The company had previously made an adaptation of the fable Reynard the Fox. The Sheep Song marks a move in the opposite direction: this piece was not based on any existing tale, but instead a wholly new fable was created that centres on a theme that has preoccupied people throughout the ages: transformation. 

Coming of Age
Despite its impressive appearance, the fabulous sheep in the leading role of The Sheep Song is an everyman figure: it stands for every person with a desire to rise above itself. Using this animal, FC Bergman explores what it means to be human. What hurdles does the sheep actually have to clear before it can call itself human? On its quest to be human, the animal encounters one mythical figure after another, some of which help it while others work against it. As a result, its quest - its coming of age - is alternatingly propelled and slowed down.

Transformation
These two opposing forces in the story are informed by distinctly differing ideas about change. On the one hand, it is seen as a force that propels humans towards self-realisation - people who bring about change are seen as leading successful lives. On the other hand, change can be a threat to humans: aging, decaying and dying are forms of change that instil fear and insecurity. 

To concretise this contradiction in the piece, the company drew inspiration from two existing stories. In Goethe’s deeply Christian work Faust, the main character makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for knowledge. He represents humankind who, like a scientist, gains insight into the mysteries of life. In contrast, there are Ovid’s pre-scientific Metamorphoses, in which humans are helpless and at the mercy of the whims of the gods. The human tendency to change consists on the one hand of a desire to grow and a fear of change on the other - The Sheep Song is about this paradox.

Paintings
FC Bergman is known for the large and impressive sets with an abundance of video material that it makes itself. With The Sheep Song, the company goes back to basics: a stage piece without video or major increases in scale. Still, the striking mise en scene will play an important role, but this time its complexity will lie in the ingenious costumes and masks. Inspired by medieval painting and theatre, in which each story takes place on a two-dimensional line between a gate to heaven and a gate to hell, The Sheep Song similarly lacks a third dimension of depth. Accompanied with fitting music, mythical figures on the front of the stage help create a variety of evocative scenes that represent the leading character’s journey. It is up to the sheep to find its way on this two-dimensional plane.

Biographies

FC Bergman (Belgium) was founded in 2008 by six actors-theatre makers-artists: Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Bart Hollanders, Matteo Simoni, Thomas Verstraeten and Marie Vinck. FC Bergman has been a permanent theatre maker for Toneelhuis in Antwerp since 2013. 

In a short time, they developed their own theatrical language, which is anarchic, a bit chaotic, extremely visual and poetic. Floundering, ever-striving humans are at the centre of their work. The most recent and impressive production in the series, JR (Holland Festival 2016), both literally and figuratively took this theme to the next level. In 2016, Simoni and Hollanders stepped back as core members and now work with FC Bergman on an irregular basis. The individual members of FC Bergman take part in a variety of theatre productions, television projects and films or make performances, installations and videos.

2009         Jong Theater Prijs on Theater Aan Zee for De thuiskomst van Harold Pinter

2010         Selection Nederlands Theater Festival: Wandelen op de Champs-                                               Elysées met een schildpad om de wereld beter te kunnen bekijken, maar het is
                   moeilijk thee drinken op een ijsschots als iedereen dronken is

2011          300 el x 50 el x 30 el, at Toneelhuis

2012         Terminator Trilogie

2013         Van den vos

2015         Het land Nod

2016         Performance of Het land Nod op Festival d’Avignon, Zürcher Theater Spektakel

2018         JR, Holland Festival

2019-20    FC Bergman collaborates on Freud van ITA

2020-21    The Sheep Song

Toneelhuis, the largest city theatre of Flanders is a ‘house of difference’. It is a hub for extraordinary artists, artistic disciplines and different audiences. In the historic Bourlaschouwburg in the centre of Antwerp, Toneelhuis provides a place for a great variety of theatre makers making/producing/developing contemporary and innovative work with an international appeal. The artistic diversity reflects the multitude of positions that characterise our current age and society. The Toneelhuis makers create their pieces for the Bourla, for specific locations and for theatres in Belgium and abroad. Since 2000, Toneelhuis has regularly presented work at the Holland Festival, including the Musil theatre marathon in 2012 based on the book The Man Without Properties by Robert Musil.

Credits

from and with
Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Yorrith De Bakker, Matteo Simoni, Jonas Vermeulen, Marie Vinck, Thomas Verstraeten
lighting design
Ken Hioco
sound design
Senjan Janssen
costume
Joëlle Meerbergen
music
Frederik Leroux
production
Toneelhuis | FC Bergman
coproduction
Holland Festival, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Piccolo Teatro di Milano
with support of
de tax shelter van de Belgische Federale overheid, Casa Kafka Pictures Tax shelter empowerd by Belfius
This performance was made possible with support by

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