ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL Opens Next Month in Belgium

The festival runs May 1 to June 2024.

By: Apr. 03, 2024
ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL Opens Next Month in Belgium
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From the open air versions of plays by Milo Rau and Tiago Rodrigues, to dozens of touching collaborations between professional artists and the people of Ghent. The ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL, unique in the history of European stage arts, simultaneously breathes new life into ancient cultural heritage and holds up a mirror to the city, society and the arts.

ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL, from May 1 to June 2024, is unique for many reasons. For starters, it is perhaps the biggest Greek tragedy festival since Sophokles, staging all 32 remaining Greek tragedies at once. The festival lasts no less than eight weeks. All performances are free, take place outdoors in the public space and in the (early) morning. Art first, work second. In that order of importance.

"A few years ago I was walking through a park in Paris early in the morning," says creator and co-curator Milo Rau, house artist at NTGent. "A group of actors were performing Shakespeare among the trees. For the first time in my life, I understood every word. Throughout the day, that experience echoed within me: the simple beauty of performing a classic for those who happened to be there."

During ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL, open-air versions of NTGent plays are shown such as Antigone in the Amazon and Medea's Children by Milo Rau, Elektra Unbound by Luanda Casella and Persians by Action Zoo Humain, a play whose stage version will premiere at the main hall of NTGent during the festival. The NTGent-makers are joined by groundbreaking collectives and artists such as Olympique Dramatique, tg Stan, de Roovers, WOLF WOLF, Dood Paard, DE HOE, Ali Can Ünal, Lisbeth Gruwez, Khadija El Kharraz Alami, Princess Isatu Hassan Bangura, Peter De Graef and Stefan Hertmans.

Ancient stories, contemporary criticism

All remaining Greek tragedies will be performed, i.e. 32 performances, spread over eight weeks and eight Ghent neighborhoods. With a closing party and a new unwritten tragedy as unmissable extras. 

"It is unprecedented for all tragedies to be performed within one festival," say co-curators Matthias Velle and Benoît Vanraes. They stress that there are no literal performances of classics, only adaptations, often in close cooperation with social organisations and local residents from all over Ghent. "Dozens of artists are currently working with locals on centuries-old texts. They transform the tragedies into performances, rituals, shows and installations with great contemporary relevance. Again and again, they use ancient stories, the cradle of our Western culture, to take a critical look at our city, society and future."

Some examples of the many collaborations with social organisations and local residents:

  • SMEEKBEDE (APPEAL): Aeschylos's Daniads inspired Kapinga Gysel, Lara Staal and Bieke Purnelle to set up a theatrical manifestation with 50 women from diverse backgrounds.
  • WRAAK (REVENGE): Performance artist Peter Aers, together with local residents, sets up his own court that examines the role of justice in our city and society. Based on the trial of mother murderer Orestes in the Oresteia, they are building an agora very near to Ghent's new courthouse.
  • HOE WAS JE? (HOW WERE YOU?) / WOMEN OF TRACHIS: Manoeuvre, a studio in the Rabot neighbourhood, together with a super-diverse group of participants, founds the collective Women of Trachis, after Sophocles' tragedy of the same name. A gathering that culminates in an empowering ritual from dawn to dusk. 
  • LIBATION BEARERS: Collective HINTER collaborates with the theatre school of Maastricht (NL) and a choir of cit workers for a performance on a burial ground about violence, victims, care and mourning.
  • EXHAUST / AJAX: Artist Kris Verdonck, together with environmental organisations and residents, organises the execution of the combustion engine during a parade through the historical city centre of Ghent.
  • FILOKTETES: Collective de Roovers, patients and caregivers from a hospital, and students and lecturers from the local university, bring a performance about illness and loneliness on a beach on the outskirts of the city.

New tragedy, reflection and closing party

In addition to the 32 existing tragedies, a newly written 33rd tragedy will be on show. In our private lives | BEDROOM, Yves Degryse / BERLIN and Barbara Raes / Beyond the Spoken create an alternative version of the tragedy about King Agamemnon. In the first part of the Oresteia, Klytaimnestra kills her husband. Son Orestes does not get the chance to pay his father a last salute. In this performance, a farewell does follow. Mother and son, sister and uncle come face to face. A ritual from sunset to sunrise projected on the facade of an apartment building. 

Every Sunday, ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL makes time for reflection. Greek tragedies inspire conversations about the fragility of democracy, the barbs of Ghent's heritage, (in)sanity, and family and fate.

During the closing weekend, ALL GREEKS FESTIVAL once again catapults ancient dilemmas into today. On Saturday 22 June, there is a Dyonisian closing party on the biggest recreation site of Ghent, where a fence now screens off access to 'problem youth'. Control seems to be the highest good in 2024, but at what cost? It is also a central question of the final performance Bakkhai. Artists and visitors of Villa Voortman, a home for mentally more vulnerable people, create a musical theatre performance that closes the festival. In early morning of course.