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Meet Angélica Liddell, the 'monster from Madrid'

| 5 October 2021
From 13 - 17 October, the world-famous Spanish artist Angélica Liddell takes over the NTGent Schouwburg with the production 'Liebestod'. But why is Liddell so famous? And why the giant bulls on stage?
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WHY "A MONSTER"?

The world famous Spanish performance artist Angélica Liddell has been making theatre for 30 years and is known for her radical and visually stunning works. Ten years ago, she made her international breakthrough at the Avignon Festival with her company Atra Bilis. Last summer, she shocked the southern French city again with the premiere of the NTGent production 'Liebestod'. According to critics, her work is "brilliant, taboo-breaking and uncompromising" and her imagery "exuberant and excessive" (Volkskrant).

Angélica Liddell is sometimes easily called 'the Spanish fury' or 'the monster from Madrid', nicknames that indicate her total surrender on stage, which is a sacred place for her. "Onstage, I’m allowed to kill myself over and over again. That possibility allows me to avoid real suicide, real madness" she said recently in The New York Times. "I don't perform, I undergo a transformation." Earlier, she said, "I try to turn pain into beauty."

Liddell wants to scrape off - by force if need be - the lacquer layer of civilisation. "I find our times repugnant: everything is about likes. I don't want to show the best of myself during a performance. I want to show my ugly sides, show that I can be a monster too."

WHY IN GENT?

 From 13 October, Angélica Liddell can be seen five times in a row in the NTGent Schouwburg with 'Liebestod', an exceptional opportunity to see her at work. Never before has Liddell appeared in a Belgian production. Now she does, thanks to Milo Rau, artistic director of NTGent, who asked the Spanish artist to take part in the 'Histoire(s) du Théatre' (HDT) series. For this series, NTGent each time invites a different director to reflect on the roots of her/his theatre through a new performance. The series opened in 2018 with Milo Rau's acclaimed 'La Reprise', and is now in its third part.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ‘LIEBESTOD’?

A monologue of almost two hours "quite like nothing else in contemporary theatre", according to The New York Times. "A two-hour trip of in-your-face theatre with a phenomenal performer", according to the Belgian radio station Klara. Or: "A frenzy in words and images, and the one and only big, thunderous success of Avignon 2021" (Deutschlandfunk Kultur). Welcome to the breath-taking world of 'Liebestod', a performance in which Liddell connects the music of Richard Wagner - liebestod is also the finale of his opera Tristan & Isolde - with the figure of Juan Belmonte, a legendary toreador who helped bring about the heyday of the arena in the early 20th century. Liddell feels a great affinity with Belmonte and other toreadors.

"Bullfighting is about relating to death by presenting it at its most beautiful," she says. "The poet García Lorca once said this, and so it is. I find the current protests against bullfighting banal. We no longer recognise the beauty in the bull, we no longer understand why the bull is killed in the arena, to ward off our own fear of death."

Liddell is alone on stage during 'Liebestod', apart from a special cast of extras, telling intense, personal stories in a setting that looks like a mighty arena, complete with two stuffed bulls. Nevertheless, 'Liebestod' is not an epic about bullfighting, it is above all a quest for tragic beauty, a sacrifice. As always with Liddell, it is about passion, surrender, dealing with death, and danger.  Or in her own words: "Theatre for me has to be real; not comfortable."