Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared

Lisaboa Houbrechts

"... by combining her text, surprising, vital direction in an abstract scenography and with Bach's Passion music set against the Roman Catholic context, manages to pair the feel of a classical Greek tragedy with a very own, modern story that leaves a deep impression." - Karen Veraart

'Vake Poes; or How God Disappeared is a raw jewel of utterly fearless art.'

Evelyne Coussens - De Morgen (Belgian daily newspaper)

‘Houbrechts breathes grand gestures. Not only in the family history she covers, but also in the images she creates and the music she uses to accompany them.’

Hildegard De Vuyst
'It is a dark tale. It opens wounds and sewers.'
Lisaboa Houbrechts

'As a sensory experience, Vake Poes is impressive.'

Gilles Michiels - De Standaard (Belgian daily newspaper)

info production


Lisaboa Houbrechts writes and stages a family epic that spans three generations. She looks back at the times of her grandparents, her parents and her own generation. She goes in search of how the small is interwoven with the large, the intimate with the political, and the past with the present. The main character is a twelve-year-old girl who stands at the end of a long history and dives into the hidden traumas of the past. Lisaboa Houbrechts elaborates the fictional story in images, text, dance and music.

The twelve-year-old Granddaughter of All Granddaughters looks back into her grandfather's past. His childhood, the war, sexual abuse in the fraternity school and the cruel marriage with Grandma Puss. Historical traumas mingle with current events. The Granddaughter of All Granddaughters is magical. She struggles through the pool of memories to visit the children of the past. The violence done to children determines the violence of tomorrow.

Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared tells the story of a family breakdown in which Grandpa Puss and his son sacrifice their faith and nail Jesus to the Cross. This to the despair of Grandma Puss who wants to keep her family pious and pure in a world that is becoming more and more secular in the 1970s.

In a profound collage of intense images, texts and music, Lisaboa Houbrechts interweaves fragments of Bach's St John Passion with her own texts. Hhe connects Bach with contemporary electronic music and all the sound possibilities of an accordion. She gives a voice and a body to the disappearing Jesus and goes in search of a different form of faith.

For this grand narrative, Lisaboa Houbrechts works with players, singers and musicians of all ages. From children to young adult performers to some established theatre monuments. She builds a house of magic and poetry in which the children of today play with the young versions of their parents and grandparents.

“It is a dark tale. It opens wounds and sewers. It is about how children are trapped in a chain of violence. The urge to break that chain can release a tremendous life force and imagination, but it can also implode into a cycle of destruction. The space between theatre and opera is the perfect form to bring this most intimate to a radical expression."
Lisaboa Houbrechts



text & direction Lisaboa Houbrechts
arias, chorals and recitatives
J. S. Bach
musical direction & arrangements
Pedro Beriso
with Alberto Martinez, Boule Mpanya, Eddie Dumont, Elisa Soster / Eriko Hashimoto / Lissa Meyvis, Elsie de Brauw, Ferre Vereecken, Jules Dorné, Lanse Duym, Pieter Ampe, Philippe Thuriot, Stefaan Degand, Wolf De Graeve, Zofia Hanna / Lucy Gibbs / Kadi Jürgens
arrangements for accordion & tenor Philippe Thuriot
composition & realization music score
Bert & Stijn Cools (granvat)
scenography & puppets Filip Peeters
costumes Oumar Dicko
lightdesign Fabiana Piccioli
dramaturgy Hildegard De Vuyst
musical dramaturgy Piet De Volder
orchestra (recording) Orkest Opera Ballet Vlaanderen
light technician Bennert Vancottem
sound technician/recording Brecht Beuselinck
realization costumes Oumar Dicko in collaboration with costumes atelier Toneelhuis (Kathleen Van Mechelen, Kasia Mielczarek, Liezelot Osselaer, Monique Van Hassel)
realization set & puppets Filip Peeters in collaboration with atelier FroeFroe (Marc Maillard)
stage director assistant Lieselot Siddiki
Helena Elshout / laGeste
Kurt Van der Elst

laGeste (BE)
co–production Opera Ballet Vlaanderen (BE), Toneelhuis (BE), Le Phénix Scène nationale de Valenciennes (FR), MC 93 (FR), Opéra de Lille (FR) and Holland Festival (NL)
thanks to De School van Gaasbeek
supported by City of Ghent, Flemish Authorities and the Belgian Federal Government's Tax Shelter measure through Flanders Tax Shelter

calender (30)


related news




duration 105 minutes (without a break)
language dutch
subtitles french or english



in the press


"The performance gets slowly but surely under your skin. Although at first you might think you have known this grief for a long time, Houbrechts, by combining her text, surprising, vital direction in an abstract scenography and with Bach's Passion music set against the Roman Catholic context, manages to pair the feel of a classical Greek tragedy with a very own, modern story that leaves a deep impression."

"Taking head on a burning topicality, she sketches a poem full of tension and roughness. The proposal is dense, demanding to the point of aridity. The gesture is incredibly masterful. It cannot leave one unmoved and confirms the great talent of a rare artist, a virtuoso, clearly one to follow.."

"Lisaboa Houbrechts shows the unbearable, in a poetic manner infused with visual and musical beauty."

"Nothing remains untouched in Lisaboa Houbrechts' new performance. Not the body, not the soul, not Bach's St John Passion. With Grandpa Puss, Houbrechts proves that she is not afraid to burn her fingers on icons."

"... in Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared, the Flemish artist intertwines music and classical singing performed live, acting, dance and scenographic movements to generate a baroque universe capable of embracing the most antagonistic aspects of the human soul in a single movement."

"Lisaboa Houbrechts gives her excruciating story a theatrical form that could hardly be more visceral both aesthetically and physically. ...
The young director is the creator of intimate and spectacular images in the service of extreme experiences. ...
Among the various theatrical languages she employs, music plays a magnificent leading role."

"Grandpa Puss is not a piece to get cheerful about, but it is great as a production. ... Also, the talents of laGeste - the new name of les ballets C de la B and kabinet k -, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and Froefroe all melt wonderfully together in this performance.
Special mention also goes to Boule Mpanya who, with a bell of a voice, as a spiritual force, can single-handedly counterbalance Flemish Catholicism and still provide a glimmer of hope in all the gloom."

"The synergy between acting, dance and singing is often impressive. ...
Houbrechts intertwines the aversion to faith with the intense need for spiritual meaning, in an intriguing theatrical narrative that dissects large structures of violence."

"Houbrechts manages to capture this family epic in a fluid, hybrid form with a dozen player-singers. This is, more than opera, musical theatre. Nervous theatrical dialogues devolve into dance and hushed visual poetry. The St John Passion (with the addition of the aria Erbarme dich) sounds lofty, thanks to Opera Vlaanderen's soloists and the imploring singer-dancer Boule Mpanya, but never bombastic, thanks to Philippe Thuriot's accordion and ominous keynote."

"It's a stage UFO, this masterful and twilight performance that denounces so bluntly, and over three generations, the way in which rape and moral harassment perpetrated by the Church have been able to destroy children and their family history. "

"Put in religious terms, Houbrechts shows a path to hope and love, and thus to something that, quite in the vein of J.S. Bach, may be called divine."

"She can handle the large space of the Ghent Opera with her impressive images. Yet she especially excels in scenes where the four children play important roles. They are all equally convincing and right. The punk Jules Dorné, for instance, is very touchingly sketched. In dealing with actors, then, lies Houbrechts' talent."

"The children in the performance act strongly. It must not always have been easy to imagine themselves in the role of a victim."

"It is a delicate, emotionally charged topic that Houbrechts skilfully integrates into a masterpiece of text, dance, music and live accordion." - Annette Stiekele (12.02.2024)





Here you will find additional information about the performance:

Texts by Hildegard De Vuyst (dramaturge) and Piet De Volder (music dramaturge)

video interview with Lisaboa Houbrechts by Opera Ballet Vlaanderen