They are the Hêbê Theatre Group: about 15 Brussels expats, each of them with a hectic professional life to handle but united by a passion for theatre. They have been meeting for many months, striving to put together an ambitious show.
Hêbê is an association that organises several activities for expats and Brusselois and its theatre group has performed annually at Bozar since 2009 - but for many of this year's group it will be their first time on stage.
They aren’t “professional artists”, there is no speech training or lessons about how to move on stage, but for three nights they will be acting, singing, playing and dancing in the inspiring location of the Bozar.
For most of them, English isn’t their mother tongue; they will spice the performance with Bulgarian, Italian, Finnish, French, German, Romanian and Spanish accents. The director is John Stanton a committed and enthusiastic American working with the US Department of Defense in Belgium. John started directing when he arrived in Brussels after seeing that the theatre and stage at the NATO school had been abandoned.
He has now directed and produced over 15 shows, ranging from musicals to avant-garde: "My purpose in directing is to inspire and challenge through the meta experience of art reflecting life," he tells us. "I want the audience to leave the theatre changed in some way."
He adds: “Tolstoy wrote Redemption later in life, as a continuance of his own spiritual journey of discovery into the power of hope and renewal found in the power of a love that never fails”.
The soundtrack for the scenes set in the gypsies' village comes from the work of a young talented Romanian pianist and composer, Andrei Marta. "Growing up in Romania, one cannot be a stranger to the gypsies and their way of life, and music is deeply connected to it," Andrei explains. He carried out some research and composed a Romanian-Russian-Hungarian flavoured piece of music, bearing in mind that the action of the play takes place in 19th century Russia.
“For the songs I visited a gypsy pastor who helped me to translate into Gypsy one passage of the Bible," Andrei says. "The challenging part about the Gypsy language is that it is only oral, so I had to invent the alphabet, so to speak." "It has been hard work from my part and from all the people involved and I can only hope that the audience will enjoy the fruit of our efforts."
"Redemption" by Leo Tolstoi / 3-4-5. May, 8pm at Bozar (in english)