Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared

laGeste, Lisaboa Houbrechts

A girl dives into the hidden traumas of the past. How does violence in intimate circles relate to the historical violence in society? An intergenerational story about a familial nervous breakdown, between theatre and opera. 

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.  

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. Lisaboa Houbrechts poses the question of how violence in intimate circles relates to historical violence in society.

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. 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. Lisaboa Houbrechts interweaves fragments of Bach's St John Passion with her own texts and she connects Bach with folk music. She builds a house of magic and poetry in which the children of today play with the young versions of their parents and grandparents. 

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.

Evelyne Coussens in De Morgen , 3 February 2023

"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."

"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."

Gilles Michiels in De Standaard *** , 2 February 2023

"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."

Klaas Tindemans in Etcetera , 11 February 2023

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

Els Van Steenberghe in Knack Focus **** , 14 February 2023

"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."

Johan Thielemans in Pzazz , 6 February 2023

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

Koen Van Boxem in De Tijd , 2 February 2023

text and direction

  • Lisaboa Houbrechts

arias, chorals and recitatives

  • J. S. Bach

arrangements, musical direction

  • Pedro Beriso


  • Alberto Martinez
  • Boule Mpanya
  • Driss Vandekerckhove
  • Eddie Dumont
  • Elisa Soster
  • Elsie De Brauw
  • Ferre Vereecken
  • Jules Dorné
  • Pieter Ampe
  • Philippe Thuriot
  • Stefaan Degand
  • Wolf De Graeve
  • Zofia Hanna

Arrangements for accordion and tenor

  • Philippe Thuriot

composition and realization music score

  • Bert & Stijn Cools (granvat)

scenography and puppets

  • Filip Peeters

costume design

  • Oumar Dicko

light design

  • Fabiana Piccioli


  • Hildegard De Vuyst

musical dramaturgy

  • Piet De Volder

orchestra (recording)

  • Orkest Opera Ballet Vlaanderen


  • Bennert Vancottem


  • Brecht Beuselinck

realization costumes

  • Oumar Dicko
  • kostuumatelier Toneelhuis
  • Kathleen Van Mechelen
  • Kasia Mielczarek
  • Liezelot Osselaer
  • Monique Van Hassel

realization set and puppets

  • Filip Peeters
  • atelier FroeFroe
  • Marc Maillard

stage regie-assistentie

  • Lieselot Siddiki


  • laGeste
  • Helena Elshout


  • laGeste (les ballets C de la B + kabinet k)


  • Toneelhuis
  • Opera Ballet Vlaanderen
  • Le Phénix, Scène nationale de Valenciennes
  • MC93, Maison de la Culture de Seine-Saint-Denis (Bobigny)
  • L'Opéra de Lille
  • Holland Festival (NL)

thanks to

  • De School van Gaasbeek

with the support of

  • Stad Gent
  • de Vlaamse Overheid
  • de Tax Shelter van de Belgische federale overheid

All data

  1. Friday 16 June 2023 — Holland Festival, Amsterdam
  2. Saturday 17 June 2023 — Holland Festival, Amsterdam
  1. Wednesday 1 February 2023 — 20h00 — Opera Gent, Gent
  2. Thursday 2 February 2023 — 20h00 — Opera Gent, Gent
  3. Friday 3 February 2023 — 20h00 — Opera Gent, Gent
  4. Thursday 9 February 2023 — 20h00 — Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerpen
  5. Friday 10 February 2023 — 20h00 — Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerpen
  6. Saturday 11 February 2023 — 20h00 — Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerpen
  7. Sunday 12 February 2023 — 15h00 — Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerpen
  8. Tuesday 28 February 2023 — 20h00 — Le Phénix, Valenciennes
  9. Wednesday 1 March 2023 — 20h00 — Le Phénix, Valenciennes
  10. Friday 3 March 2023 — 20h00 — KVS - BOL, Brussel
  11. Saturday 4 March 2023 — 20h00 — KVS - BOL, Brussel
  12. Thursday 9 March 2023 — 20h00 — Opéra de Lille, Lille
  13. Friday 10 March 2023 — 20h00 — Opéra de Lille, Lille
  14. Thursday 16 March 2023 — 20h00 — MC93, Bobigny
  15. Friday 17 March 2023 — 20h00 — MC93, Bobigny
  16. Saturday 18 March 2023 — 20h00 — MC93, Bobigny

News about ‘Grandpa Puss; or how God disappeared’

Lisaboa Houbrechts makes theatre that is epic and intimate in equal measure Article • 24 June 2022

Lisaboa Houbrechts makes theatre that is epic and intimate in equal measure

Among the 'new' artists Toneelhuis that is showcasing, there is one who is cheating just a little bit. Five years ago, Lisaboa Houbrechts (b. 1992) already took her first steps in the Bourla, through the talent development trajectory, P.U.L.S.. That she now has moved up to become one the resident makers is hardly surprising: her metaphorical theatre with an epic slant simply begs for a grandiose context.

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