Lisaboa Houbrechts

Lisaboa Houbrechts (b. 1992) obtained her Master’s in Drama from the School of Arts|KASK Ghent in 2016. She is a writer and director of theatrical work at the crossroads of visual arts, opera and text theatre. Houbrechts evokes history and classical repertoire through a ritual deed and humankind in a series of passions. The productions by Lisaboa Houbrechts are baroque and brazen but also playful and disarming. “Charming and challenging theatre,” said De Morgen of her total spectacle Bruegel (2019). Together with composer Fabrizio Cassol she created I Silenti about the forgotten Roma genocide. It starts with the figure of the musician Tcha Limberger, and is like a poem that tells not only about the Roma but also about everyone who has been silenced. Currently Lisaboa Houbrechts is writing a family epic. This creation Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared will be made at laGeste and has its première in the beginning of 2023 in Opera Ballet Vlaanderen.

Lisaboa Houbrechts made her first shows as a writer and director of the company Kuiperskaai. From the start her productions typically involved a large cast, a vibrant interaction between image and text, and an intelligent cross-fertilization of various disciplines: performance, music, choreography, literature and visual arts. This was already discernible in a.o. De Schepping/The Creation (2013) and The Goldberg Chronicles (2014), which was described as “an immense clash of energies” in the press: “the language is colour, the acting is images, the music is paint”. In 2016, Lisaboa made a huge impression with her sparking adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; and in September 2017, the production 1095, based on a text by Victor Lauwers, came out. “Full of spirit and performing pleasure,” wrote Lotte Philipsen in Knack.

From 2017 till 2021 she was part of the PULS-trajectory (Project for Upcoming talent for The Large Stage) at Toneelhuis. In her idiosyncratic adaptation of Hamlet (which premiered at Love at first Sight III in September 2018) she focused on the female perspective, placing Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, at the heart of the performance.

Bruegel (2019) travels back in time to paint a kaleidoscopic portrait of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and the age in which he lived. The main figure, however, is Dulle Griet (also known as Mad Meg), the master’s most infamous creation: a woman denigrated as a ‘battle-axe’ because she purportedly went out plundering for the sake of Hell. In Houbrechts’ interpretation, she is actually trying to save those objects – testimonies to vulnerable and nameless lives – from being annihilated by history and the forces that determine its course. At the same time, and with growing despair, Griet has doubts about her own identity. Far beyond any binary kind of thinking, this production speaks about the desire to acknowledge, embrace and manifest as fluid that which people call ambiguous and distasteful. The live music – both composed and improvised – conducts an exciting dialogue with the sparkling action on stage. The Baroque ensemble Harmonia Sacra from northern France and kamancheh player Mostafa Taleb provide a rich musical pallet that spans several centuries and cultures.

Houbrechts is continuing her interest in live music on stage with I Silenti (2021). Fabrizio Cassol, with whom Lisaboa became acquainted during her apprenticeship with les ballets C de la B for Requiem pour L., a joint creation by Alain Platel and Fabrizio Cassol, asked her to direct I Silenti for the Théâtre de Namur. This intriguing story starts with the figure of Tcha Limberger, a famous blind Roma musician. I Silenti connects the Porajmos, the forgotten Roma genocide during World War II, with excerpts from Monteverdi’s madrigals that speak of love and war. These two worlds merge into each other. Limberger is accompanied by a very strong ensemble of singers and musicians, while the Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa echoes the lost mother, she evokes the lost Indian origins of Tcha and his people.

In 2022 Lisaboa Houbrechts is working at a family epic. The creation Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared will be made at laGeste and the première will be the 1th of Februari 2023 at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in Ghent.

Lisaboa Houbrechts is also adapting and directing Euripides' Médée this season, commissioned by the renowned Comédie-Française in Paris. Médée will premiere at Salle Richelieu on 13 May 2023 and will be included in the repertoire of the French state theatre. She is also preparing to direct the opera My Name is Red in collaboration with Turkish writer and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and composer Aleksander Nowak for the Malta Festival 2023 in Poznan, Poland.

update: 21.12.2022

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