Valentijn Dhaenens

Valentijn Dhaenens (° Gent, 1976) creates Domestica for KVS.  

When you were a child, what did you want to become?

I always wanted to go on the stage. Or at least since I was six, when I announced that I wanted to be an actor. One of the first things I remember is that when I was with my family, everyone would burst out laughing when I did an imitation of someone. Although I was otherwise a rather introverted child, I absolutely lapped up this attention. Perhaps this is where the first seeds were sown. The image I had of acting back then was of course completely different to what it is today. As a child, I also soon became fascinated by the theatre as a place where extraordinary things happened, and I found this act of lying (pretending) more fantastic than real life. So in a certain sense, I am doing what I have always wanted to do.

What was your most unforgettable experience on stage?

For every good production, you’ll find that around once in thirty times everything goes perfectly. These are the real highpoints – those rare moments when you have the feeling that the place, time, yourself and the audience are all united and share the same emotion. That one rare moment in which everything seems to come together and deliver everything that we had ever hoped for. The first performance by DegrotemonD in Amsterdam was one such moment, and I remember it as a magical evening in which everything – every pause, every silence, every increase in tempo – seemed to be just right. Last week, I played SmallWaR in Brisbane and the performance was unexpectedly emotionally charged, which shocked me greatly. I had that feeling you get when, at a certain moment, a performance seems to ‘come home’, as if it had been specifically created for this audience, on this evening, in this place. 

Why are you making Domestica for the KVS?

I lived through my parents’ divorce and, unlike many other people, I experienced it as a kind of deliverance. A deliverance from the tension and fear that I experienced as a child when my parents were often living at odds with each other. I remember lying in bed and hearing my parents downstairs raising their voices or even crying sometimes. At times like that, all feelings of protection and trust fell away and I would have liked to have got divorced from my parents myself; to have packed a rucksack, set off down the nearby motorway in my go-kart, and got as far away from them as possible. I still find it difficult to bear a certain type of argument. It doesn’t matter what context it is in, but if certain frequencies are reached in a difficult discussion, I am often gripped by that same desire to flee. I think that this emotional fascination is my main reason for creating this performance, in the hope of exposing part of the terror that can cause me – and no doubt many other people – so much anxiety.