The Swiss theater director Milo Rau usually starts from real events to build his plays, always on uncomfortable topics. In the case of Familie, which premieres this Friday and Saturday at the Municipal Theater of Girona, within the Montaña Alta festival, Rau began by speaking with the actress An Miller, from the NTGent (National Theater of Ghent) which he had directed, and he proposed doing a play with her husband, who was also an actor.
The husband, Filip Peeters, says: “She was not clear about the proposal to work on weekends, because we would not see our daughters, and then Rau proposed adding them to the work, adapting it to the age of Leonce and Louisa, who were 13 at the time. and 14 years old. An saw him so crazy that she didn't say anything at home until 15 days later. We talked about it, we reflected on it and the girls thought that perhaps it was a good opportunity to learn about this profession. But we didn't see it clearly because of the risks of working together on a work like that, so we thought about it for six months.”
Rau wanted them to act out a family drama, but he didn't know which one yet. “We started improvising, with myself and my daughters,” explains Miller. The improvisation was to kill my daughters and make them oppose it, Milo told us. It was difficult, but there was always a reason: either the mother was an alcoholic, or there was a psychological problem, a divorce, and that helped me think that I was not like that and it would never happen to me. But then we thought we would look for a case where there were no circumstances, no reason, normal people, and that's why we chose the Demeesters."
Miller refers to the case of a family from Calais who in 2007 hanged themselves for no apparent reason. They only left a note: “We were wrong.” Rau was inspired by these events to begin his private life trilogy and to propose an experiment on the weak hinge between life and fiction. That's why he wanted the four performers to also be family.
“This allows us to reflect on the family, on society, on the world,” says Miller. The most absurd thing of all is that there is no reason to carry out this action: there was no evidence that the Demeesters, who were middle class, had economic or psychological problems. “Sometimes the public gets angry because there is no clear reason,” adds the actress.
Regarding the daughters, who are already 18 and 19 years old and are studying degrees at the university that have nothing to do with acting, their parents have always wanted to protect them. “We have worked with a coach so as not to interfere in his work, and now I can say that we know each other better than before. “It has been an extraordinary experience and has contributed to further improving our family relationship,” says Peeters.
“While we were having breakfast, we talked about very deep topics that came up in rehearsals. When we finished rehearsing, however, we had an agreement: in the car we would spend only ten minutes talking about the play and then that would be enough,” concludes the actor.
Catalan version, here