BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — A Belgian theater apologized Friday for placing newspaper advertisements which sought actors for a new play who had fought for the Islamic State jihadist group or killed their siblings.
The theatre in the city of Ghent was looking for recruits for a show by Swiss director Milo Rau — who attracted controversy last year by casting children in a play about a notorious Belgian paedophile.
“Have you fought for your convictions? For God? Have you fought for IS or other religions? Get in touch,” read one of the adverts for the NTGent theatre, which was published in a Dutch-speaking free weekly newspaper.
Another with the same NTGent email address said: “Have you killed or seriously injured your brother (or sister)? Perhaps metaphorically? Do you want to talk about it?”
The play, to be performed in September, is called “Mystic Lamb” after the famed altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers at Saint Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent.
The theatre later apologised for “poor communication” after a public outcry.
In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, it “recognised that with its appeal for IS fighters, it could have given the impression of giving them a platform, and recognised its poor communication in this regard, and apologizes.”
Sven Gatz, the culture minister for Flanders, the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, said this week that “artistic freedom has its limits.”
Around 400 Belgians have gone to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq since 2013-2014, making it one of the European countries that has produced most “foreign fighters.”
Those who return to home normally face arrest by Belgian authorities.
Rau wanted to create a “theatre of witnesses” and was looking for around 12 people to fill key roles, including the Christian figures Adam and Eve, and their son Cain, who murders his brother in the first part of the Bible, NTGent said.
“We are re-interpreting the key figures of the Mystic Lamb and we see that they are still alive among us… our appeal was addressed to everyone including Catholic and Protestant extremists, and others,” it added.
Rau, the theatre’s artistic director for the 2018-2019 season, shot to fame for his acclaimed play “The Last Days of the Ceausescus” about Romania’s former communist dictator.
But he attracted controversy last year by using children to stage a story about how Belgium has been traumatized by the pedophile killer Marc Dutroux, who kidnapped and raped six little girls.