Brandhaarden 2023


KVS (Brussel) / Carme Portaceli


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KVS (Brussel) / Carme Portaceli

Gustave Flaubert’s novel about a rebellious doctor’s wife is over 150 years old, but the themes of Madame Bovary are as relevant as ever. Inequality between men and women still persists. As a society, we still struggle with centuries-old, stereotypical patterns. Emma Bovary is a victim of those, but she also rebels against them.

Festival Brandhaarden

Run time 90 minutes
Genre Theatre
Language Dutch
Surtitles English


Emma Bovary marries her doctor with the highest of expectations: a Disney-worthy fairy tale. But before long, her boring life starts to tighten like her corsets. She devours stacks of books to escape her banal reality. Nothing is exciting, her husband doesn’t meet her expectations. She starts looking for more, for lovers, for kicks. She lives above her standing and spends more than she has to escape from her provincial life.

French author Gustave Flaubert threw a veritable bomb onto the world literature scene with his Madame Bovary.

The story, of an adulterous doctor’s wife who takes her own life, was considered so shocking in 1856 that it was seen as an attack on French society and even led to a court case. Emma Bovary sent shock waves through France and the world. Flaubert’s book heralds the invention of the modern novel. Michael De Cock rewrought the novel for the stage and Catalan director Carme Portaceli brings Madame Bovary to life in a contemporary adaptation that emphasises the story’s persistent relevance today. Maaike Neuville plays Emma Bovary and Koen De Sutter her husband Charles.

Director Carme Portaceli about Bovary

Emma Bovary struggled with that fairy tale back then, as do women today. Society’s views and expectations of femininity. And perfect masculinity is equally ingrained in our genes. We battle against images we have completely internalised – so in fact, we are locked in battle with ourselves. Emma keeps fighting for her ultimate desire: the desire to be whole.

28 FEB - Artist Talk

A look behind the scenes and conversations with the people behind the scenes make the performance visit even more interesting. That is why ITA Academy organises a series of Artist Talks during Brandhaarden: in-depth discussions with inspiring makers about their work and working methods, motives, sources of inspiration and fascinations. Artist Talks take place after a performance by the relevant maker and offer depth to look at the work in a broader context.

On February 28, moderator Carolien Borgers will engage in a conversation with Carme Portaceli.

Registration is free (and required) via the link below

More info


direction Carme Portaceli & Michael De Cock
with Maaike Neuville, Koen De Sutter & Ana Naqe
lighting design Harry Cole
soundscape Charo Calvo
choreography Lisi Estaras
dramaturgy Gerardo Salinas
assistant director Inge Floré, Ricard Soler
set & costume design Marie Szersnovicz
production directors Catherine Vervaecke & Ella De Gregoriis
stage manager Davy De Schepper

technique Dimi Stuyven (light), Bram Moriau (sound)
machinery Justine Hautenhauve, Willy Van Barel
surtitles Inge Floré
costume execution Eugenie Poste & Heidi Ehrhart
translation Anne Vanderschueren, Trevor Perri
distribution & tour direction Saskia Liénard
production KVS
coproduction Perpodium
with the support of Tax Shelter van de Belgische Federale Overheid via Cronos Invest

Female Voices


How does the female voice sound when concentrated in time and place at a festival? During the 11th edition of international theatre festival Brandhaarden, six female directors confront plays and themes from the classical repertoire, in which female characters play leading roles. Brandhaarden: Female Voices takes place from Wednesday 22 February to Saturday 4 March and features performances by Elsa-Sophie Jach, Eline Arbo, Satoko Ichihara, Carme Portaceli, Hanane Hajj Ali and Ewelina Marciniak.

Previous editions have spotlighted directors such as Katie Mitchell, Milo Rau and Rimini Protokoll, writer Édouard Louis, the Southern European region (Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece) and city theatres such as Münchner Kammerspiele, Volksbühne Berlin and Peter Brooks Théâtre Bouffes du Nord.