Alain Platel is trained as a remedial educationalist, and is an autodidact director. In 1984 he set up a small group with a number of friends and relatives to work collectively. Emma (1988) signalled his concentration on directing. He was responsible for Bonjour Madame (1993), La Tristeza Complice (1995) and Iets op Bach (1998), with which les ballets C de la B (as the group was now called) rocketed to the international top. In the meantime his collaboration with Arne Sierens had a similar effect on the Ghent youth theatre company Victoria, with the three plays Moeder en Kind (1995), Bernadetje (1996) and Allemaal Indiaan (1999).
After Allemaal Indiaan he announced that he was stopping making productions. But shortly afterwards Gerard Mortier persuaded him to do Wolf (2003) based on Mozart for the Ruhrtriennale. The choir project for the opening of the new KVS marked the start of close collaboration with the composer Fabrizio Cassol. vsprs (2006) proved to be a turning point in his career. So far his work had been exuberant in both the diversity of performers and the themes, but now it became more profound and intense and revealed a world of passion and desire. And violence, as in
Nine Finger (2007) with Benjamin Verdonck and Fumiyo Ikeda.
After the baroque pitié! (2008), Out Of Context – for Pina (January 2010) is an almost ascetic reflection of the movement repertoire of spasms and tics. Platel consistently continues to search this language of movement for incarnations of feelings that are too vast. The yearning for something transcending the individual is becoming more and more palpable.
In collaboration with director Frank Van Laecke, he created Gardenia (June 2010), a production in which the closing of a transvestite cabaret affords us a glimpse into the private lives of a memorable group of old artists. In 2015 Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke renew their collaboration, this time joined by composer Steven Prengels, for En avant, Marche ! a performance about a society inspired by the tradition of fanfare orchestras and brass bands.
C(H)OEURS (2012), so far Platel’s biggest project, is created on demand of opera director Gerard Mortier. He got to work with the famous choral scenes from Verdi’s operas, later on he added pieces of music from Richard Wagner’s works. In C(H)OEURS he examines –together with his dancers and the Teatro Real choir – how ‘dangerously beautiful’ a group can be. The political connotation in performances such as tauberbach (2014) and Coup Fatal (in collaboration with Fabrizio Cassol 2014) lies in the joie de vivre and energy that is displayed on stage to show how people sometimes live or even survive in undignified circumstances (a landfill in tauberbach and the real living conditions of the musicians from Congo in Coup Fatal). “Lust for life” as a way of rebellion.
But let it be clear, Platel is not just into large scale projects nowadays. In the recent past, he worked on small projects such as Nachtschade (for Victoria in 2006) and coaching work for amongst others Pieter and Jakob Ampe and their production Jake & Pete’s big reconciliation attempt for the disputes form the past (in 2011). Two projects which have had a significant influence on his way of perceiving theatre.
He also almost surreptitiously entered the arena of the dance film together with the British director Sophie Fiennes (Because I Sing in 2001, Ramallah!Ramallah!Ramallah! in 2005 and VSPRS Show and Tell in 2007) and solo with de balletten en ci en là (2006), an impressive view of what goes on in a twenty-year-old dance company, taking us all the way to Vietnam and Burkina Faso, but also and mainly being an ode to his home town Ghent.