Four artists make up the FC Bergman theatre collective: Stef Aerts, Joé Agemans, Thomas Verstraeten and Marie Vinck. With their sensational site-specific productions, they made a splash the moment the company was founded back in 2008 (then still with Bart Hollanders and Matteo Simoni). In 2013 FC Bergman came under the wing of Toneelhuis.
The thread running through FC Bergman’s work is the tragedy of the little guy struggling to branch out and broaden his horizons. This is often reflected in enormous stage sets and installations to which the actors endeavour to measure up. The scenography is the ‘beast that has to be tamed’, the show a composition of images.
After scooping up the Young Theatre Prize for their exuberant adaptation of The Homecoming at Theater aan Zee (TAZ) in 2009, the following year they stunned the Dutch-language theatre world with their masterly Walking along the Champs Elysées with a tortoise so as to have a better look at the world, but it is difficult to drink tea on an ice floe if everyone is drunk. Premièred in the Old Exchange in Antwerp, the show’s total abandon, baroque poetry and sheer scale could not fail to attract attention. It was selected for the Nederlands Theater Festival.
In 2011 FC Bergman knocked on Toneelhuis’ door for the first time. In the space of just a few weeks, the collective created 300 el x 50 el x 30 el for the Antwerpse Kleppers, Though it had seemed an impossible challenge, the collective managed to get the entire Bourlaschouwburg team on board and together they built a complete village on the stage. A tracking camera covering the whole village projected onto a large screen what was happening inside the houses, allowing the audience to peer into the rooms occupied by a number of prominent guest actors and eighty extras. 300 el x 50 el x 30 el is still on the repertoire today (with a run in New York in autumn 2022).
Made outdoors in the port of Antwerp, the wordless and poetic Terminator Trilogy (2012) toured internationally. With the music theatre show Of the Fox (2013) - the collective’s first creation as permanent Toneelhuis-makers - FC Bergman came back indoors and paid tribute to the Bourlaschouwburg, turning the stalls into a swimming pool. This was followed by another scriptless site-specific show, The Land of Nod (2015). The production made it to the Festival d’Avignon and will be performed at the Biennale di Venezia in the summer of 2023.
JR (2018), a radical adaptation of William Gaddis’ eponymous cult novel, was also staged outside the theatre walls. FC Bergman constructed a gigantic, four-storey-high tower; the audience sat on all four sides of it and followed the simultaneous narratives direct and via a camera. This production also centred on the lonely struggle between man and his fate.
The Sheep Song (2021) was a game-changer: for the first time FC Bergman used the theatre as it is intended, i.e. without radically altering it. The Sheep Song is a wordless production about a creature no longer satisfied with its lot. The production was selected for the TheaterFestival 2022, and this spring is travelling to the Adelaide Festival in Australia.
The members of FC Bergman also participate individually in other theatre productions, television projects, films and exhibitions, working independently of the collective and of Toneelhuis.
In 2023 FC Bergman was awarded the prestigious Silver Lion for Theatre at the Biennale di Venezia in recognition of its entire body of work: “FC Bergman flirts with the limits of the feasible, creating apocalyptic modern tales, often without words but with a surprising plastic force and evocative power, thus homing in on Man torn between his existential desire to go beyond his limits and the fear of change.”
As a group or as individual artists, the core members of FC Bergman also do projects elsewhere: from operas in Belgium (Les pêcheurs de perles) and Switzerland (Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria) and directing productions at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (Freud, De toverberg) to performances and cinematic installations in surprising urban locations (De parade, Familiestraat, Seefhoek Series).
In 2023 FC Bergman creates an audio-visual installation for Gaasbeek Castle relating to the Marquise Arconati Visconti. The same material will be the starting point for Ne Mobliez Mie in autumn 2023: an evening of dialogue between film and theatre, to be seen in Toneelhuis, Antwerp exclusively.
In May 2022 FC Bergman assumed the artistic direction of Toneelhuis, together with Olympique Dramatique, Lisaboa Houbrechts, Gorges Ocloo and Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe.
- Watch a showreel of FC Bergman's work here.