Not very many theatres are devoted to radio drama, but the Belgian company Le Collectif Wow! is one of them. It was founded in 2011 by Florent Barat, Emelie Praneuf and Sebastian Schmitz, and over the years different members has come and gone. Now, in 2022 the group consist of the three founding members as well as Ameélie Lemonnier and Michel Bystranowski - five personalities from different backgrounds, nationalities and horizons who, as they put it themselves, "are in search of a common grammar for listening to the world and making it heard."
It is hard not to hear how those words stem from a certain commitment, but also how they point to the company's openness to explore and develop different expressive forms. The company started out by making more conventional studio productions but quite soon they moved on and started to experiment with live radio performances. Through the years they have created hybrid projects like photo-sound installations, poetic concerts, radio drama and live radio performances. Wow! thus move between creating studio productions of a more ordinary kind and performances where the piece is performed live, in front of an audience. For their live performances Wow! has created a format in which they equip each member of the audience with headphones. This allows for an individualized experience and quality of listening and makes it possible for the collective to work with very precise spatialization of the sounds. With a binaural microphone on stage they can build an intimate relationship between the performers and the audience. Everything is done with sound: the actors play for and with the microphones, they create sound effects, use prerecorded material and play music, all intertwined with the text. It is a creative process performed live, and the collective see it as a possibility to let the audience experience the "magic" of radiophonic and sound creation.
Le Collectif Wow! first live radio drama was called Piletta ReMix. It grew out of a studio production called Piletta Louise, which was made for a young audience. Creating pieces for a young audience has been important for the development of the companies understanding of the effect and possibilities of radio drama. They are however not particularly concerned to label their art in categories, rather they like to believe that what they do go beyond boundaries. When the company is creating something for a young audience, they think of it to be as much for youngsters as for the child that lays inside each adult. This certainly relates to their conviction that "if we want the world to change a little and be a bit better someday, it is the young ones who will change it."
The production Of Mud and Steel - beware of the angry deer, which Radioart is proud to present, is a play that purports a sharp critique of the neo-liberal politics that has made the position for the worker in our society increasingly vulnerable. It tells, in an effective and emotionally strong way, a story of how our contemporary society has stymied the possibilities and aspirations for a life in which there is room for work and love alike.
Writer Florent Barat and composer Sebastian Schmitz has worked very closely when developing Of Mud and Steel - beware of the angry deer. There is a strong sense that text and music go hand in hand, that the sound composition and the text are so intertwined that they form a kind of new entity that cannot be taken apart. Music tells as much as the words. This quality also makes it an interesting exploration of the language of radio and sound, which remains the preferred terrain of the company's creative gesture.
The work of Le Collectif Wow! - and certainly the play Of Mud and Steel - radiates an urgency which creates a sense that the work is grounded in a political conviction. When asked about this Florent Barat says - "Yes, our work is permeated by an approach of commitment, to listen to the world and its pulsations, to echo and carry the voice of the marginalized, the forgotten, the most fragile, and the struggles and fights that make the world spin. We like to think of Wow! as a megaphone that can relay the voices of the unheard and invisible. "