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Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles

1834. Nicolaï Gogol was only 25 years old when he wrote The Diary of a Madman. Under his pen, Poprishchin is an unimportant civil servant whose life is played out between routine and modest solitary pleasures. This all changes the day when he falls for Sophie, his boss’s daughter. The love is a mirror, which reflects to him his miserable condition. The irrepressible need arises to invent an “other”, to become a man worthy of the elusive beauty. Frustration soon gives way to madness and in his delirious search for identity, he becomes King of Spain under the title of Ferdinand VIII. But reality catches up with fiction, and it is to the asylum that Popritchine is brought by those he believes to be his subjects.

The son of a civil servant, himself a small ministerial official, Gogol seems to use Poprishchin like a puppet on which to experiment with different roles and destinies. To scare himself? To make himself laugh? (humour, that formidable weapon so dear to the author). To turn his own life into a script?

An absurd tale, The Diary of a Madman recalls this quest for ’appearance’ that has not aged a bit. This frantic need to exist, to play a role in society, even if it means fantasizing our lives. Translating this major work on stage are two actors and a puppet, a sort of avatar, a multiple body that opens onto all possibilities. Natacha Belova rediscovers the complicity of Tita Iacobelli with whom she had conceived Tchaïka (best solo on stage at the 2019 Maeterlinck Awards).

Puppet - Avatar - Multiple bodies

Two actresses manipulate the character of Poprishchin by moving forward in the story as in a game. In this game, Poprishchin is the guinea pig, the avatar, the crash test dummy that can lend itself to multiple transformations. The actresses play with the puppet, they construct the figure by integrating parts of their own body, they compose and organize the space. They remain in the background as presences two benevolent or evil depending on the developments of history.

On the stage, they use different types and sizes of puppets: a human-sized puppet made of foam and thermoplastic, table-top puppets, sack puppet, inflatable puppet...

They also explore different perceptions of the body through their manipulation of the puppet:

• The social body (what we let others see, which carries a function in society)
• The imaginary body (what we imagine ourselves to be, depending on our moods)
• The fantasized body (capable of fulfilling all our desires)

Further discussion of this beautiful project can be found in the artistic dossier.




Premiere in September 2021
In Festival Mondial de la Marionnette Charleville-Mézière, France

Contact of the Company
Compagnie Belova - Iacobelli
Production & Touring - Javier Chávez

Availabilities on demand


Direction, dramaturgy, performance 
Tita Iacobelli 

Direction, dramaturgy, scenography & puppets
Natacha Belova 

Marta Pereira 

Choregraphy, outside view 
Nicole Mossoux

Dramaturgy assistant, Outside view 
Raven Rüell

Thanks for the artistic contribution to
Sophie Warnant

Light design 
Christian Halkin 

Loïc Nebreda

Sound design 
Simón González 

Jackye Fauconnier 

Scenography and direction assistant 
Camille Burckel 

Création Studio Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles

Javier Chávez 

Artistic production 
Daniel Córdova

Light operator 
Gauthier Poirier 

Compagnie Belova-Iacobelli

Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles, Théâtre de Poche Bruxelles, L’Atelier Théâtre Jean Vilar Louvain-la-Neuve, Maison de la Culture de Tournai, Festival Mondial de la Marionnette Charleville-Mézière , Fondation Corpartes Santiago, Chili, Le théâtre de la Cité de Toulouse

© Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles