The Swiss theater director Milo Rau usually uses real events to build his plays, always on uncomfortable subjects. In the case of Familie, which premieres this Friday and Saturday at the Municipal Theater in Girona, as part of the Temporada Alta festival, Rau began by talking to the actress An Miller, from the NTGent (Teatre Nacional de Ghent) who he himself had directed, and proposed to him to do a play with his husband, who was also an actor.
The husband, Filip Peeters, explains: "She did not see clearly the proposal to work on weekends, because we would not see our daughters, and then Rau proposed to add them to the work by adapting it to the age de la Leonce and Louisa, who were 13 and 14 at the time. An found it so mad that he didn't say anything at home until 15 days later. We talked about it, we thought about it and the girls thought that maybe 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 such a work, so we turned it around for six months."
Rau wanted them to play a family drama, but he still didn't know which one. "We started by improvising, with myself and my daughters - explains Miller-. The improvisation was to kill my daughters and for them to 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 this helped me to think that I was not like that and that it would never happen to me. But then we thought of looking for a case where there was no circumstance, no reason, normal people, and that's why we chose the Demeester family."
Miller refers to the case of a family from Calais who hanged themselves in 2007 for no apparent reason. They only left a note: "We made a mistake". Rau was inspired by these events to start 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 be family too.
"This allows us to reflect on the family, on society, on the world", points out Miller. The most absurd thing of all is that there is no reason to carry out this action: there was no record that the middle-class Demeesters had financial or psychological problems. "Sometimes the public gets angry because there is no clear reason," adds the actress.
As for the daughters, who are already 18 and 19 years old and studying at university for degrees that have nothing to do with acting, the parents have always wanted to protect them. "We worked with a coach so as not to interfere with 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", declares Peeters.
"While we had breakfast, we talked about very deep issues that came up in the rehearsals. When we finished rehearsing, however, we had a pact: in the car we would spend only ten minutes talking about the play and then enough", concludes the actor.