Ruud Gielens & Bart Van Nuffelen

Ruud Gielens & Bart Van Nuffelen

Bart Van Nuffelen (°1973) is a writer and co-artistic director of Martha!tentatief, a small and versatile urban theatre company specializing in true stories about ‘ordinary’ people and their relation to the often-incomprehensible reality of their urban surroundings. The stories are the result of a period of intensive research, for which Martha!tentatief works with a dynamic and diverse network of urban organizations and academic partners. But above all, the company ventures into the city with dedication and enthusiasm, in search of the people behind the trends, the reality behind appearances, the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.

In 2010, Bart Van Nuffelen pointed the way for this urban focus with the project Revue van het Ontembare Leven, a series of shows about life in the city. For one of them, he lived among homeless people on a public square for six months and made De Vernissage together with them. Another show, Polen op Zondag, was based on interviews with migrant workers in a park. 13 ½ bid farewell to 13 deceased city dwellers in the cavernous hall of a railway station. 

Together with his mate (and Martha!tentatief cofounder) Johan Petit, Van Nuffelen gave the theatrical lecture De Ontembare Stad to some 4000 of Antwerp’s civil servants. In collaboration with a network of urban partners, they brought all of the city’s nationalities together on the Bourla stage for 175+, the moving and unforgettable crown of a first series of shows about the city. 

For the children’s production Dounia B, Bart Van Nuffelen once again worked with countless partners, schools and specialists to search for ‘children between different languages’. They put together a varied urban team of people who had never worked in theatre before; together, they made a marvellous children’s show that won awards at home and abroad. Fact is, authentic stories for today can no longer be told and written by a single artist; the city itself must do the telling.

In 2020, in the wake of a hotly publicized bank robbery, Bart Van Nuffelen set out to discover the history and essence of Antwerp diamond district and Jewish quarter. This resulted in late 2022 in the podcast series De Kunst van het verdwijnen, a coproduction between Martha!tentatief and VRT MAX. Since its launch, the episodes have been started over two million times. The podcast was awarded ‘Best Story’ at De Standaard’s podcast festival; not only that, Bart Van Nuffelen and co-author Lucas Derycke can now call themselves ‘Master Storytellers 2022’, having also received an award for the best narrative journalism in the Netherlands and Flanders. 

For three years, starting in 2023, Bart Van Nuffelen and MartHa!tentatief will be training their gaze on Deurne-Noord, a stretch of raw urban territory bisected by a desolate road. Their first artistic project in Deurne-Noord is Honderd, the portrait of a road to nowhere. 

Ruud Gielens (b.1977) is a director, actor, producer and teacher. He has created special urban projects in various European countries and in Egypt. He practices a wide variety of professions in the performing arts. He creates set and lighting designs, works as a producer, and directs and performs at various theatres in Belgium and abroad. Inspired by an intense social commitment, he creates

extremely diverse interdisciplinary and politically engaged projects and performances in which he focuses on the state of change in the contemporary socio-political climate and its influence on individuals, relations and power structures.

He graduated from RITCS (Royal Institute for Theatre, Cinema and Sound) in Brussels, was part of the theatre company Union Suspecte, and directed productions in Belgium for Theater Antigone, Kaaitheater, ARSENAAL/LAZARUS, and Muziektheater Transparant. At Toneelhuis, he performed under Luk Perceval’s direction in L. King of Pain, Dood van een Handelsreiziger and Turista; and at the Schaubühne in Berlin, he performed in Thomas Ostermeier’s Woyzeck, among others. At the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar, he played Richard III in a production directed by Thomas Thieme. From 2005 to 2009, he was a permanent member of the artistic core of the KVS (Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg) in Brussels, where he contributed to a highly diversified urban project. As part of this project, he created several shows, including the renowned Bezette stad (‘Occupied City’), in collaboration with Kris Strybos (who will also create the soundtrack for Hundred).

In the summer of 2011, Ruud Gielens collaborated with theatre maker Laila Soliman in creating the production Lessons in Revolting in Egypt. In the years that followed, he frequently worked in the Middle East, where he initiated various festivals and projects. In Tunis, for example, he constructed a fictitious museum dedicated to Tunisian national security as part of the Dream City festival. Through his organisation SHISH, he produces and directs numerous performances in a wide range of contexts, spanning from India to Canada.

From 2013 to the present, he has directed various productions for the Maxim Gorki Theater (Berlin), Ballhaus Naunyn Strasse (Berlin), and Theater Neumarkt (Zurich). In 2019, he collaborated with FGM (female genital mutilation) survivors from Sudan and Eritrea to create the production My Body Belongs to Me for the Theaterformen festival in Hannover. He has had ongoing collaborations with Antwerp's Martha!tentatief since 2018 and formed an alliance with the Ghent company Cirq due to their shared love for vibrant performances and absurd humour. In 2022, he directed the theatre concert BOEF! at Theater DE MAAN in Mechelen. 

Additionally, he is jointly responsible for the study programme on theatre directing at RITCS, where he supervises workshops and the graduation projects of young theatre directors. 

As of 2025, he will be co-artistic director of theater arsenaal in Mechelen, together with Sarah Eisa.

Productions from/with ‘Ruud Gielens & Bart Van Nuffelen’

Honderd Theatre 21 September 2024 until 19 December 2024


Toneelhuis / Martha!tentatief / Ruud Gielens & Bart Van Nuffelen