Pieter De Buysser rescues democracy
Have you too had a belly-full of all those faulty election results? Brussels writer and theatre maker Pieter De Buysser has come up with the solution. He introduces a decoy into society to glue back together the brazen people and principled elite and thus save democracy.
Pieter De Buysser is still the Brussels writer, film- and theatre maker that with his highly imaginative pen and philosophical finesse is able to turn the most pressing issues inside-out in search of a better perspective. Last season, he performed his interstellar monologue The Tip of the Tongue at the Brussels Planetarium on one particular night every month of the year. He’s now reconciling the principled elite and the stubborn electoral sheep through the introduction of an ideal (non-) politician, Lukas Alberg.
Pieter De Buysser “This is a story about a secret coalition of concerned, well-meaning intellectuals, marketing gurus, academics, and smash-hit singers who know perfectly well what the people want but are seriously worried about the state of democracy. The population always votes but gets it wrong again and again, so something has to be done about it. Climate measures must be taken, the social gap must be closed ... All the specialists know this, but even the poorest people vote for those who care for them the least.”
What is that elitist coalition’s plan then?
Pieter De Buysser Their plan is as old as the hills: to get democracy back on its feet in order to save democracy. Like old rabbis, they mould a decoy from the mud of our subconscious. A golem, a Frankenstein monster. He’s a very ordinary man: Lukas Alberg, father of two, employee at Blipco.
By means of a secret algorithm based on the averages extracted from his health app, his consumer map and his geolocation, Lukas Alberg is chosen to initiate a movement. He’s then sent into the political landscape to embody the ideals that society thinks are necessary, and to thereby gain wider support for those ideals from the general population. And it works brilliantly. The paradise wherein the elite is able to transfer its ideals to the crowd is already peeping round the corner.
"Democracy hurts, but you have to relate to it. You need empathy to achieve that. Let that be the heart of theatre."
PIETER DE BUYSSER
So are we being handed a lot of political philosophy?
De Buysser We tell the story of the rise and fall of Lukas Alberg. Of his ventures as a decoy on tour with his movement, addressing the people. You can link that to political philosophy but also to personal experiences. The play deals with the strain of our democracy, which looks down on the voice of the people. I am just as interested in the emotions as in the thought-experiment.
“A perfect democracy is the most shameless thing in the world,” said the 17th-century philosopher and politician Edmund Burke, and that is the show’s motto. I want to embrace the shameless, problematic, conflicting, despicable democracy. You have to use that humus and manure to form a community, and not immediately renounce democracy because it’s too slow or because it obliges you to take into account people you disagree with.
Democracy hurts, but you have to relate to it. To do that, you need empathy. Let that be the heart of theatre: in the theatre you put yourself in someone else's shoes. For me, this performance is about empathy. About the necessity to no longer radicalise one’s own identity, one’s own interests and one’s own injuries, but to expand democracy itself.
Looking at the credits, the piece has a lot of contributors. This gives the show international allure and helps make Lukas Alberg a credible figure.
De Buysser The story goes a little further than the piece alone. Astonishing things have already happened. Dutch actor Gillis Biesheuvel, who has long been a member of Dood Paard and has also worked with STAN and Compagnie de KOE, is in the leading role. He has a very unusual kind of charisma and I love seeing him play this part, so much so that I actually wrote the play especially for him.
Included in the various scenes are also contributors that support him, one of whom is myself as a copywriter, another is Herman Sorgeloos, who provides the scenographic framework, and there’s Suleiman Abdulmohsen, who has a very specific role as well.
While rehearsing in Prague, Gillis, as his character [of Lukas Alberg], somehow landed in a television talk show, the Czech equivalent of De wereld draait door [The World Turns]. In addition, we’re in the process of creating a website for the movement, complete with testimonials. People will also be able to communicate with Lukas Alberg through social media.
Decoys, Frankenstein monsters, and golems do tend to turn against their creators.
De Buysser Yes, they can become pretty ballsy. Which is fortunate for us, because with a bit of dramatic ingenuity, this can bring about some tragic scenes that rattle our cages and shed a whole new light on the matter.