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Carcer Voluntarius

March 2024

Carcer Voluntarius and Toneelvrienden de Lo play with Tom Lanoye

Queen Lear (based on Shakespeare)

2007. We are at the eve of the tragical bank crisis which will trigger a civilian rage against the fathomless power of big business.
At the top of the financial piramide we discover captain of industry Elisabeth Lear of Lear Inc. She foresees the storm, summons her sons and will divide her vast concern amongst them. She’s got one condition: a public declaration of love to their mother.
Lear’s memory declines at a rapid pace. She drags her children, her daughters-in-law and her lovers along in a tempest of madness, which will rip all masks from their skins.

“A dark, indestructibly pumping heart
Which hasn’t stopped beating for one second”


Els Bouwen, Elly Conings, Frans Dumortier, Leen De Vreese, Lie Hellemans, Wim Huybreghs, Anna Kostyleva, Jan Van den Broeck, Fred Van Put, Leonid Vasilchenko


Jerry Olbrechts (direction, scenography, costumes, sound)
Paul Bielen (light)
KNEPH – Ilse Wijnen, Theo De Roey, Douwe Rubben, Aimie Provencher (scenery in the storm scene)
Peter Ariën (set)
Fabrique Imagique – Sam Van den Brandt (photography)


May 16, 17, 18, 19 in Salco, Geldenaaksebaan 277 3001 Heverlee
May 23, 24, 25, 26 in Gemeenschapscentrum Don Bosco, Ortolanenstraat 6 3010 Kessel-Lo
8.00 p.m. – On Sundays May 19 and 26: 3.00 p.m.
€10 - €9 - €5

With English surtitles


Online reservations

Or by phone 0494 07 08 43 (6.00 – 8.00 p.m.)

Information about the production

About Tom Lanoye

Tom Lanoye (1958) lives and works in Antwerp (Belgium) and Cape Town (South Africa). He is a novelist, poet, columnist, screenwriter, and playwright. Lanoye is one of the most widely read and acclaimed authors in his linguistic region (the Netherlands and Flanders) and is a familiar presence at major European theater festivals. His name is pronounced in French: /lanwa/. (From Tom Lanoye's website.)

In 2015, Tom Lanoye reworks Shakespeare's King Lear for Toneelgroep Amsterdam. He shifts the context and time, simplifying the narrative structure. The production emphasizes a gender shift compared to the bard's work: not only is the issue of power depicted from a female perspective, but also the relationships between the mother and her sons and daughters-in-law explicitly reflect Freudian motifs.

Lanoye simultaneously preserves the solid plot construction of a Shakespearean tragedy and alternates between verse and prose. He enriches his dialogues with rich imagery. Thematically, he pays significant attention to the dementing Lear, as well as the classical storm scene, serving as an extensive psychological catalyst. 

About our staging of Queen Lear

Lanoye's text sparkles with a great love for the language and structure of Elizabethan theater. In our staging, we gladly respond to that.  

Similar to Shakespeare's time, the genders and ages of the actors in our production do not necessarily align with those of the characters. In our performance, the seven "wealthy" roles are played by "older" individuals. Oleg, the only "outsider," is portrayed by a young man. If you wish, you may see symbolism in this.

Performances in Shakespeare's theater resembled shows in a marketplace, in the public space. Similarly, our audience surrounds the playing area as silent, judgmental confidants. The actors perform like children, drawing from their imagination, aided by the absence of props. Lear, from her ivory bubble, often wants to be heard in the world. In such moments, she uses a microphone. If she permits, others may also speak into it.

Thematically, we emphasize revealing the identities of each character, making "transformation" their primary journey, for each of them. This process occurs through the artistic composition of the text, in language and structural construction. We choose to highlight two distinctive aspects.

The long storm scene serves as an extreme catalyst, unfolding everyone's innermost selves. It is a disruptive plunge into the unknown, the deepest inner realm of the characters. We asked KNEPH (with a hyperlink to www.kneph.be) to complement the linguistic construction with a visual one. At shared tables, the audience engages in conversation, becoming part of the playing space and experiencing the journey into darkness even more intimately.

A second catalyst in the transformations is music. We use music from the collective memory of a Western world that is fading away: pop songs you learned in your youth tickle the muscle of memory. They stimulate a desire for what you believe you've lost or never received.

Dramatis Personae

Elizabeth LEARLeen De Vreese  
Robert KENT, Lear's advisorFrans Dumortier  
OLEG, Lear's personal assistantLeonid Vasilchenko  
GREGORY, Lear's eldest sonJan Van den Broeck  
HENDRIK, Lear's second sonFred Van Put  
CORNALD, Lear's youngest sonLie Hellemans  
CONNIE, Gregory’s wifeWim Huybreghs  
ALMA, Hendrik's wifeElly Conings  
JUNKIELie Hellemans  
LectorEls Bouwen  
Song and guitarAnna Kostyleva 
Artistic Team  
Direction, scenography, costumes, soundJerry Olbrechts  
LightingPaul Bielen  
Imagination of the storm sceneKNEPH – Ilse Wijnen, Theo De Roey, Douwe Rubben, Aimie Provencher  
PhotographyFabrique Imagique – Sam Van den Brandt  
Program bookletJerry Olbrechts 

A play about greed, power, and family

Queen Lear is classically tragic in its dual focus: the machinations of the greatest power in conflict with the private (family) relationships of the rulers.

In 2008, the banking crisis makes visible to everyone how the power of big business had become a monster that spares no one when in danger. A small, self-guarding group of super-rich rules like feudal world lords, unencumbered by geographical borders or politics.

By 2024, this undemocratic situation has only grown, drowning amidst other "evils" clamoring for attention at the doorstep of every global citizen. In this lies the relevance of Lanoye's text: the GREED of the "one percent," as one of the greatest threats to peace and democratic coexistence, thematically deserves a central place.

Lanoye shows us the machinations from within the smallest group within the one percent: that of the family business. The intertwining of entrepreneurial spirit and universal family tensions brings characters to life who barely consider the impact of their greed on "the little ones." They appear primarily driven by relational desires and frustrations.

However, the text is not just a juicy soap opera in which the super-rich settle their Freudian psycho-problems. The characters also work symbolically, serving as blocks of ideas about how power can be wielded.

Son Gregory and his wife Connie fiercely guard the well-being and survival of their own group, especially their family.

Son Hendrik and his wife Alma revel in the sport of progress itself: becoming more efficient in business or continually growing and improving oneself.

Son Cornald wants to use power for the emancipation of the weak, driven by a sense of justice.

Lear's business right-hand, Kent, sees value in the traditional and unchanging passing of the torch between generations, with honor and loyalty as keywords.  

For Lear's personal nurse, the young Oleg, the shadow of power becomes a place to survive.

For the homeless Junkie, the power of big business is the root of all evil.

All characters proudly and confidently wear the convictions outlined above as masks and images. Due to the extreme choices Lear throws at them, their personal desires and identities burn through their melting disguises. At the end of the storm, they stand honestly facing each other.

And Elisabeth Lear herself? The fading impact on her own thoughts and memories exposes her deepest desires and frustrations. Her identity turns out to be a tangle of contradictions, making her the only one reflecting everyone around her.

The deteriorating Lear herself becomes a symbol of our disappearing world, reborn in a new form in youth.

September 2023

New collaboration with Toneelvrienden de Lo en KNEPH

In collaboration with our theater friends Toneelvrienden de Lo en artists’ collective KNEPH we have started a new production process: Queen Lear, an adaption of Shakespeare’s King Lear, by Tom Lanoye.

We are sharing actors, and artists for scenography and light, and we are planning performances in May 2024. We will play at our own trusted venue “Salco”, and in Kessel-Lo, home of Toneelvrienden de Lo and KNEPH.

Toneelvrienden de Lo


Juni 2023

The Nation at De Reynaertghesellen

Louvain based amateur group De Reynaertgehesellen performed the marathon production The Nation (Eric de Vroedt) in May 2023. Willighe Vanckenis’ in house director Jerry Olbrechts played the part of Wouter Wolff, and won the Louvain Margrietjuweel 2023, a yearly theater prize.

The production The Nation was nominated for the Euripidesprize.

Congratulations to De Reynaertghesellen, one of those other theater companies we are growing closer to!

De Reynaertghesellen

November 2022

Les Bonnes

In October and November 2022 we gave our praised production LES BONNES a second run as “home theater”. Invited by friends we performed on several locations in Flanders, warmly welcomed by our hosts and audience. Halfway the performance run we noticed a growing audience participation. That didn’t surprise us, really. The parts had actually “grown” into the actors, and most shows were held in the actual living rooms of our hosts and hostesses. Thank you very much, dear friends!

Our small tour bus has brought us to Bierbeek, Kessel-Lo, Leuven, Antwerpen, Gent, Deurne (@The Park) en Bever (Rosario). We feel glad and proud.

September 2022

Les Bonnes and the Louvain theater awards

Our intimate production of “LES BONNES” was performed with great success. The audience praised the quality and the accessibility of every production aspect, despite Jean Genet’s complex text.

Our performance was honored by the yearly Louvain theater awards. We got one of the three nominations for the “Euripidesprijs” (best play). Fred van Put en Frans Dumortier were nominated for the “Margrietjuweel” (best acting), which was won by Frans. The interplay of the actors was praised in all commentaries, by the public and the jury. Frans illustrated this by giving his “Fiere Margriet” trophy to Lie Hellemans, our third “actrice”. In this way he captured our feelings of connectedness.

Here are the jury reports.

Nomination Euripidesprijs 2022 for Carcer Voluntarius

Solange and Clare are poor sisters, maids. They are forced into complete obedience to their Madam. They fill their hopeless situation with games in which they “act” their Madam, each in turn. They improvise erotic desires. They repeat with strict precision ritual acts in which they strangle Madam, a desire they want to act out in reality. They love each other… but… loving each other while disgusting, is not the same as loving each other.
We watched an incredibly strong direction. On this production had been worked very hard. With passion, with love, with blood, sweat and tears. Typical for the approach of Carcer Voluntarius.
The set was extremely beautiful, though one sees nothing. Only the smell. The smell of decay in the dungeon of Solange, Claire and Madame. Mozarts music lays a blanket over the whole, hope and despair at the same time.
But the most important thing: Jerry Olbrechts guided his team to uncharted heights. Try doing this: on the lap of the audience and an extremely difficult text. For this you need concentration, supreme concentration and focus. And that is exactly one of the traits of Carcer Voluntarius. But most of all you need talent, much, much talent.
Not only Frans Dumortier and Fred van Put were magnificent. Also Lie Hellemans was sublime. Expressive, breathtakingly strong and with eyes filled with strength. She made Solange and Claire act as they act, behave as they behave, be who they are.
Because of a fantastic group effort with Les Bonnes Carcer Voluntarius deserves a thunderous applause.

Nomination Margrietjuweel 2022 for Fred van Put

Fred van Put as “Claire” shows the utmost concentration and focus, which is not obvious, feeling “the breath of the spectator in your neck”. He portrays Claire with much variation, with much subtility. Just as her sister Solange, Claire suffers under the immense weight of Madame. Fred switches perfectly between anger, servility, hate, longing… Rhythm, expression and timing are perfect. Fred acts with great intensity, he has become Claire.
In his diction, expression and posture he heavenly captures Claire’s almost childlike rebellion, again and again suppressed.
Here Fred is positioned against Frans Dumortier. They don’t overstage each other. On the contrary. They are literally and metaphorically “partners in crime”. In the part of “Claire” Fred delivered a wonderful acting performance.
A truly meant applause for Fred and Carcer Voluntarius.

Margrietjuweel 2022 for Frans Dumortier

Jean Genet’s text is an amazing fit for Frans Dumortier. An occasionally poetic text that creates deep wounds. In his diction, in his movement, in his body there is a frail softness and at the same time a tender toughness, characteristics of the feelings of hate against Madame, and the mixed feelings for his sister.
Frans Dumortier is able to open every register. Submissive, creepily submissive against Madame. Exploding in a role play with his sister Claire. In a fraction of a second switching from one emotion into another. His gaze, his piercing gaze, his gazes that tells you everything. His wonderful, dosed voice, always under control, even when the volcano is about to burst. Carried by sublime support by both Fred van Put and Lie Hellemans, Frans offers a combination of concentration, focus and big talent.
A heartwarming applause for Frans Dumortier and Carcer Voluntarius.

April 2022

Les Bonnes

Carcer Voluntarius plays with Jean Genet


Solange and Clare are poor sisters, maids. They are forced into complete obedience to their Madam. They fill their hopeless situation with games in which they “act” their Madam, each in turn. They improvise erotic desires. They repeat with strict precision ritual acts in which they strangle Madam, a desire they want to act out in reality.


Frans Dumortier (Solange)
Fred Van Put (Claire)
Lie Hellemans (Madam)


Jerry Olbrechts (translation, scenography, direction)
Peter Ariën (scenery, website)


12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 mei 2022 – 20.00 p.m.
Salco – Geldenaaksebaan 277 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
€9 - €5 (students, unemployed) - €1.8 (UiTPAS)

Book your seats here.

We can perform in living rooms, so the scale of our production is small.
Let us know if you are interested in inviting us.
Surtitles in English are not available, but are possible.

“The actrices withdraw their movements, as if each movement is interrupted, or broken. Each movement erases the actrices. It were good if, once in a while, they would tiptoe, after they had carefully taken one or two shoes in their hand, and they would put them on a piece of furniture, avoiding to with them – not to stay silent for the downstairs neighbours, but because the action is part of the style. (…)
The two maids are not bitches: they have become old, they have gotten skinny in the gentleness of Madam. They do not have to be pretty, which would immediately show their beauty to the spectators from the moment the curtain is raised, but we should see them embellish through the night, until the very last moment. (…)
And if you want to perform in Epidavros? It suffices that, at the beginning of the performance, the three actrices would enter the stage and, under the eye of the public, agree on the corners on stage, which they would name: bed, window, wardrobe, door, dressing table, etc. Then they can disappear, to reappear immediately in the order the author wanted.” (Jean Genet)

“In nature the tragic is found in what is actually happening. In art it is more found in style than in what is happening. It is possible to paint a herring tragically, even if such an animal has got nothing tragical in itself.

About Les Bonnes

(original texts)

“Les Bonnes” van Willighe Vanckenis
Comment jouer “Les Bonnes” – Préface
Kaas - Inleiding
Equality and Love at the End of The Marriage of Figaro: Forging Democratic Emotions

October 2020

Les Bonnes – interrupted

In season 2019-2020 we planned a technical and narratively simple production, with a short series of theater shows, followed by a series of performances in private homes. Les Bonnes (“The Maids”, by Jean Genet) is a theatrical text about (gender) identity, role play, eroticism and power relationships. We worked on a hybrid performance (dance/text theater), with three performers and a lot of attention to skin contact. Remarkably the owners of the theatrical rights gave us the permission to make our own, brand new translation of this French play from 1947.

Six weeks before opening night in May 2020 we had to stop the rehearsals because of the corona pandemic. Logistically the production was ready.

At the moment we would love to pick up Les Bonnes when it is possible in a save way. We hope the enthusiasm of the performers won’t cool down.

Because of the health crisis we are all obliged to express ourselves in a new way. Maybe that new “body language” will be part of our final production: “social distance”, in a show about the eroticism of the body.

October 2020

Project “Scheutsite”

In season 2019-2020 Carcer Voluntarius partook in a co-creation trajectory, organized by the city of Louvain, our home base. A former religious domain has transformed into the “Scheutsite”, where many local social and cultural organizations may (cheaply) find a steady home. One of the conditions that enlarged changes to a spot in the enormous building on the site were “partnerships”. Collaborating with other groups is part of our DNA, and we took the initiative to find partners. And we did, rather swiftly.

We are happy to share storage and rehearsal space with theatrical groups from Leuven. The other residential organizations may lead to even more exciting collaborations in the future. Meanwhile we have new friends to share our logistics with.

The participants of our collaboration are interested in a future collaboration for a shared theater production. Although the current corona pandemic is slowing down our move to the Scheutsite, we hope our ways will also cross artistically in future.


July 2020

Project Verantwoordelijkheid/Responsibility in retrospect

Our theatrical multimedia project Verantwoordelijkheid/Responsibility (April/May 2019) combined an incubation period on social media and a series of shows in a context of multimedia.

Acting: Tuur Dutoit, Frans Dumortier, Johanna Goris, Lie Hellemans, Anna Kostyleva, Nele Vaes, Jan Van den Broeck and Fred Van Put. Musicians: Margot Brumagne, Mehrad Naghashzadegan en Kobe Vaes. Set: Peter Ariën. Film, sound, editing: Alexander Marinissen. Camera: Alexander Delanote. Subtitling: Els Bouwen. Website: Tuur Dutoit. Photography: Tuur Dutoit. Costumes: Jerry Olbrechts, Olga Maknovska. Make-up: Kanittha Paksee. Direction, concept, production: Jerry Olbrechts.

We performed for full houses, and the audience was not bored.

Our special production is not on line anymore, but you can still find some thematical background on Instagram and Twitter. (In order to make the project accessible, we communicated in two languages.)



Contemporary themes (migration, identity, gender and racism) were highlighted in two intertwined classic repertory texts by Henrik Ibsen and Joe Orton. Our story was set alternately in 2010 and 2015. In that year Alan Kurdi, the drowned refugee child with the red T-shirt, moved Europe’s heart.

There were different age generations on stage, and we focused on “the creation of identities with our own body’s”. Each character had to deal with problematic issues: “loss”, and “the tension between barely surviving or leaving”. Two stories packed with family relationships and histories created relatable scenes bursting with emotions.

We debated amongst each other, and after the show with the audience: can an actor naturally, without objection, act any character whatsoever, or must he restrict himself to the cultural group he/she belongs to? Can we show confronting images and words considering identity, sexual orientation, race and nationality without warning? Our production showed paradoxical (political) ideas and convictions simultaneously, while we tickled the emotions as well as the brain of the audience. Hence we evoked more questions than answers, which was our intention.

We created a “studio”, with the projection of live close-ups, and confronted the audience with documentary footage and music whilst the scenes were performed. There were surtitles in English and Dutch, so the dialogues in local dialect were as accessible as possible. Several members of the audience were bothered by this abundance. Fortunately most acknowledged how we tried to translate contemporary media-experiences into a theatrical form, “like in real life”. It was as if we made our own media-bubble for the time of the performance. At the beginning of the production process we envisioned “something like a complex HBO-series”. We noticed that amongst the audience precisely the youngsters got genuinely excited by our show, or, as one young man uttered: “This is theater for people who don’t like theater!”

We also partook in theater competitions: the “Landjuweel” and the “Leuvense Toneelprijzen”. The elaborate jury report of the Landjuweel praised our intelligent mix of stories and forms, the technical virtuosity, the acting performances and the ambitious enthusiasm of our group. The jury stipulated that the multitude of threads of our performance made it too difficult to follow, and advised more simplicity in future. We feel sorry our open style of storytelling was struggled with.

We read the same reservations in the short jury report of the Leuvense toneelprijzen, though we feel very proud of their words of praise.

“We know that Jerry Olbrechts does not shy away from extremely creative productions. Here he had two plays run through each other and he made it work. Yet this was a serious assignment, for the public and for the actors. At first we struggled with the who’s who and what’s what, but after a while we empathized with the story. We had the impression that not everyone in the audience got it, it stayed heavy stuff in content. Many technical devices like the projection of texts and live video images hindered more or less our empathizing. The acting performances were very good and homogenous despite a few less experienced actors. Frans Dumortier and Lie Hellemans were excellent.

Yet again a very remarkable production by Carcer Voluntarius. Few can do the same.”

March 2019


Carcer Voluntarius performs double bill repertory theater.

LILLE EYOLF (Henrik Ibsen)

Actors create identities, ages, genders

Two families in a recent past
Inappropriate behaviour
A soundtrack of seventies hits
We feed the audience with fact and fiction
We share emotions
We share

Dutch and English surtitling

April 25, 26 and May 2, 3, 4, 5
8.00 PM
Salco – Geldenaaksebaan 277 3001 Heverlee

April 27, 28
8.00 PM
30CC/Wagehuys – Brusselsestraat 63 3000 Leuven

September 2018


In season 2018-2019 Carcer Voluntarius plans a theater experience based on several classical theater texts on responsibility of the old for the young, of parents for children and of the mighty for the repressed. In this respect we will investigate contemporary morality issues considering the creation of identity, in “real life” and in theater.

Performances in April 2019 will be the final destination of a journey that will start in September 2018 on different social media. Our creation process will be shared on a specific website, a Youtube-channel, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and an online-forum.

Carcer Voluntarius

We hope using English as a main language, and English subtitles in our Dutch-spoken performances, will open up our small story to a broader audience. From 2018 “Willighe Vanckenis” becomes “Carcer Voluntarius” as well, and the title of our new project will not only be “Verantwoordelijkheid”, but also “Responsibility”. All aboard!