This was already discernible in her early work, including 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. As a director, Lisaboa Houbrechts evokes history and classical repertoire in a ritualistic manner and reveals human nature as a series of passionate urges. This was particularly clear in her idiosyncratic adaptation of Hamlet (which premiered during Love at first Sight #3 in September 2018). Here she focused on the female perspective, placing Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, at the heart of the performance. “Lisaboa Houbrechts makes herself master of Shakespeare’s mythical story with a distinctly modern boisterousness…. She pokes fun at almighty manhood, sympathizes with Gertrude and explicitly takes the side of the women, who are triumphantly depicted as opponents of the masquerade of patriarchy.” (Julien Bécourt in Mouvement)
With Bruegel (2019) – the first work she has made under her own name – Lisaboa Houbrechts has struck out on a new path. Bruegel travels back in time to sketch a kaleidoscopic portrait of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and the era in which he lived. The central figure, however, is Dulle Griet (often called ‘Mad Meg’ in English), the most notorious of the old master’s creations: a woman who was denigrated as a ‘battle axe’ because she purportedly stole things on behalf of hell. In Houbrechts’ interpretation, she is actually trying to save those objects – evidence of vulnerable and nameless lives – from the crushing consequences of history and the forces that determine its course. At the same time, and with increasing despair, Griet has doubts about her own identity. This production goes far beyond any binary type of thinking when it comes to wanting to take a flexible approach in acknowledging what others consider ambiguous and reprehensible, and actually embraces and disseminates it. The live music – both composed and improvised – adds to this by entering into an exciting on-stage dialogue with the sparkling drama. The Baroque ensemble Harmonia Sacra from northern France and kamancheh player Mostafa Taleb offer a rich musical palette that spans a number of centuries and cultures. “Captivating and challenging,” wrote De Morgen about this total theatre. This is Lisaboa’s most personal work thus far.
Houbrechts is continuing her interest in live music on stage in her next project, I Silenti (premieres in January 2021). Saxophonist and composer Fabrizio Cassol, who met Lisaboa during her work placement training with Requiem pour L., a joint project by Cassol and Alain Platel, asked her to direct I Silenti for the Théâtre de Namur. This extraordinary story revolves around the figure of Tcha Limberger, a famous blind Roma musician. Cassol wants to make a connection between the Porajmos, the forgotten Romani genocide during World War II, and excerpts from Monteverdi’s madrigals about love and war. Two worlds that converse and intermingle with each other. I Silenti is like a poem that speaks not only of the Roma but of everybody that has been silenced.
Meanwhile, Lisaboa Houbrechts has also started writing a trilogy, a family epic that takes place from 1930 to 2010. Work on the realization of this trilogy is planned to start in 2022.
Follow the projects, work process and dialogue of the four P.U.L.S. directors here.