Toneelhuis is one of the three large municipal theatres in Flanders. The artistic core of Toneelhuis consists of two theatre collectives and three individual artists: FC Bergman (Stef Aerts, Thomas Verstraeten, Marie Vinck, Joé Agemans), Olympique Dramatique (Tom Dewispelaere, Stijn Van Opstal), Lisaboa Houbrechts, Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe and Gorges Ocloo.
As of 2022, Toneelhuis is not only an artist-driven but also a collectively-run organization. The permanent members of the company share its artistic direction and are responsible for all aspects of artistic policy. This collective leadership of a big theatre is unique, even from an international perspective. With its intergenerational, diverse and collective leadership, the company plays a pioneering role internationally.
With the Bourla, Toneelhuis has a classic nineteenth-century theatre in the heart of Antwerp at its disposal, and with the Kambala, an industrial building on the periphery of the city, it has a second, smaller platform that also houses the set and costume workshops. The city and its rich cultural melting pot are an important artistic breeding ground.
The idiosyncratic career paths of the five theatre makers/collectives represent equally different world views and artistic practices. This heterogeneous dynamic is what drives Toneelhuis. Artistic polyphony is at the heart of its activities.
Besides creating their own productions, the collective also offers space for work by other artists that complements and challenges their own work. This happens through a festival and/or in co-production with other theatre partners. In addition to being a production house, Toneelhuis also wants to be a presentation space. For Toneelhuis, being generous towards other companies and sharing its theatre spaces is an essential part of its artistic activities. As a municipal theatre, Toneelhuis wants to position itself in the centre of its city as an artistic lighthouse, an accessible venue where everyone feels welcome to delight in or be confronted with varied work.
Toneelhuis aims to create continuity, stability and a restful atmosphere, while also focusing on artistic development in new collaborations. Young creators are an important focus here. Toneelhuis wants to be a reliable artistic and business partner in local, national and international networks with an openness towards a rapidly changing world. It wants to be a place of reflection on theatre and society and of exploring the possibilities of participation.
The core team of Toneelhuis theatre makers plan to explicitly address the challenges of a big theatre. They believe in the many possibilities of the large stage and in the powerful, emotional communication that develops with big audiences as a result. Irrespective of their differences, the makers share a passion for the grand gesture and the big story. They fully embrace the use of all artistic languages and disciplines: the spoken word, the body, images, music and dance. Working in a hybrid, interdisciplinary manner is in their artistic DNA. They focus on contemporary topics such as identity and gender, history and decolonization, ecology and participation. They do not shy away from big texts and universal themes, but also take on the challenges of queering and intersectionality. Technical craftsmanship and experience go hand in hand with experimentation and originality. With their work, they dare to take artistic stands on social issues as well as to express deep human emotions.
The Toneelhuis theatre makers want their shows to be inviting, but not necessarily always pleasing. They want to overwhelm with images but also demonstrate the power of words. Their shows sharpen the critical eye and stimulate the senses. They stir hearts but also manipulate the imagination. They tell new stories and rediscover old ones. They denounce and seduce. Bodies are exhibited, thoughts refined. They offer provocation and confusion but also consolation. The Toneelhuis makers search for grand gestures to show intimacy. They turn the theatre into a place for debate, but also a circus full of clowns and acrobats. Toneelhuis is an extension of the street, but also an autonomous space. A crossroads of politics and poetry. Of engagement and experimentation with form. An explosion of differences.