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Winter wonders: Four English-language theatre performances you should see this season

21:00 03/11/2018

From Oklahoma to Denmark, the end-of-year line-up from the English-language theatre groups in Brussels is sure to impress, as the city's amateur dramatic troupes will have you laughing, singing and gripping your seats in shock. Here are four of our favourite performances to enjoy before Christmas.

God Of Carnage
8-17 November, Warehouse Studio Theatre, Rue Waelhem 69A, Schaerbeek

The latest offering from the American Theatre Company is Yasmina Riza’s Tony Award-winning play, God of Carnage. Two couples meet one evening to discuss a playground fight between their sons during which one boy has lost his two front teeth. The discussion starts off cordial and polite but as the evening wears on and alcohol loosens inhibitions, polite conversation and social etiquette dissolve into a comedic exchange of abuse and accusations. "It’s a farce about the social conventions that bind us and how we are prisoners of our own memetic programming," says director Andrew Johnson.

Although originally written in French, the English version by Christopher Hampton became a huge success in the West End and Broadway and the ATC’s production will have the Brussels audience in stitches but also squirming uncomfortably in their seats as they recognise their disinhibited inner child in the characters on stage. "Everyone has secretly wanted to just scream and yell and cry and do really rude things," says Chloe Brown, who plays the character of Veronica Novak. "This play is an opportunity to escape into that, it is really cathartic."

Oklahoma
22-25 November, Auderghem Cultural Centre, Boulevard du Souverain 183

Oklahoma, a Rogers and Hammerstein favourite, is this season's performance from the Brussels Light Opera Company (BLOC). Oklahoma is a story of flirtation, jealousy, betrayal and love, set in the town of Claremore in 1906, when winning the hand of the girl you loved was based on the amount of material goods and money you could bring to the table.

Cowboy Curly McLaine and disturbed farm hand Jud Fry are both attracted to farm girl Laurey Williams and both want to take her to the dance. Laurey refuses to go with Curly even though he has rented the nicest rig to take her there and chooses to go with Jud even though she is afraid of him. In the meantime, cowboy Will Parker wants to marry Ado Annie but while he was away trying to get $50 to buy her hand in marriage, she has fallen in love with the peddler Ali Hakim.

This story of love, jealousy and marriage is brought to life on stage by director Marie Rousseaux, a cast of 71 BLOC members and the brilliant performance of the classic songs, Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, and Oklahoma. Rousseaux encourages everybody to come: "The choreography by Jean Emmet is brilliant, the singing under the baton of Steven de Mesmaeker is going well and we’re making a joyful noise."

Suddenly Last Summer
22-24 November, Warehouse Studio Theatre, Rue Waelhem 69A, Schaerbeek

Fans of Tennessee Williams will be delighted to hear that Little Seal Productions will be staging Suddenly Last Summer, regarded as the most autobiographical of Williams’ plays. Little Seal Productions was founded in 2017 by Barry O’Halpin and this is their second theatre performance.

Suddenly Last Summer is a one-act play set in New Orleans in 1936. The play centres on psychiatric patient Catherine Holly and her aunt-in-law Violet Venable. Violet tries to bribe Doctor Cukrowicz to perform a lobotomy on Catherine, in the hope that she will stop babbling about the sexuality of her late son, Sebastian. Instead, Dr Cukrowicz gives Catherine a truth serum and the stories of Sebastian’s debaucheries unfold.

O’Halpin believes that Suddenly Last Summer was ahead of its time and it raises issues of sexual and psychological abuse, consent and complicity, all of which are part of our consciousness in 2018.

Hamlet
28 November-1 December, Le Jacques Franck, Saint-Gilles Cultural Centre, Chaussée de Waterloo 94

The Brussels Shakespeare Society is bringing Hamlet back to the stage this season, directed by Sven Delariviere. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play and was one of the most popular during his lifetime. Delariviere believes that it is popular because “it is very rich, there’s a lot of lines that have become idioms, a lot of ideas that are very relatable, it’s philosophical but not overly complicated, it speaks to people”.

Hamlet is a story of revenge set in Denmark. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to Hamlet and tells him that he was murdered by his uncle Claudius, who now sits on the throne, married to his widowed sister-in-law, Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. The ghosts asks Hamlet to seek revenge for his death by killing Claudius. Hamlet is not sure that the ghost is telling him the truth and he confides in his friend Horatio. He tells Horatio that he is going to pretend to go mad with grief to discover the truth. Many innocent people die during Hamlet’s quest to discover the truth including Hamlet himself.

In true Shakespeare style, the Brussels Shakespeare Society brings us a performance where women play men and men play women and though there maybe “something rotten in the state of Denmark”, there is nothing rotten in this year’s production and “to be or not to be” may be the question.

Written by Noreen Donovan