Theatre in a tent of coffee sacks

August 2005 -

The Vredeseilanden organisation was looking for someone to put on a theatrical production in Costa Rica about fair trade. In the end they chose me. I held auditions in Costa Rica and picked some members of the Theater Magos del Tiempo group. Together, we have created the Corazón de Café production.'

Theater Tol, which is based in Antwerp, was set up a full ten years ago and specialises in visual theatre. Lot Seuntjens has been its artistic director right from the start. She has already put on theatrical performances in India, Poland and Israel. Vredeseilanden is a Belgian non-governmental organisation (NGO) for development cooperation that specialises in food security. 'They also have an office in Costa Rica, which was a great help, especially for logistical matters. For instance, we use film images and other media in the performance. Our thorough preparation meant that we were able to start filming as soon as we arrived and finish in a couple of days.’

Lot is very used to cultural differences but says, ‘it was still difficult sometimes, as Costa Ricans never arrive on time. I was annoyed by this but didn’t always know quite how to react. On the other hand, I have to say that I liked their relaxed attitude and learned a lot from it.'

It can’t be easy to hold auditions in a country that you are very unfamiliar with. 'Actually, it turned out better than I expected. There was no major language barrier and I noticed that many of the actors were fairly experienced. In the end, we picked five members of Magos del Tiempo and got to work. In fact, we found that in visual terms we were often speaking the same language. '

The performance is a mixture of visual theatre, circus elements, film and live music. 'We start by looking at the coffee trade but then make it very abstract. All the same, the whole performance is suffused with the power, and especially the romance, of hot coffee. The design contributes to the atmosphere too - we even stage the piece in a tent made of coffee sacks! It smells lovely.'

The Corazón de Café production has already enjoyed a successful tour of Costa Rica. In the Netherlands, the piece will be performed at the Rotterdam Street Festival from 25 to 27 August 2005. Corazón de Café was co-sponsored by Hivos.