Tantalizing herb laboratory

The theatre company Laika and the music ensemble Zefiro Torna have created their very first show together. BALSAM is a sensory and musical performance. An alchemistic concert. A seductive laboratory in which live music mingles with intoxicating aromas and tastes and with visual and physical experiences.

The music is a collection of vocal and instrumental compositions with titles like ‘Artemisia absinthium’ and ‘Les Roses de Saadi’, referencing the healing, stimulating and tantalizing effect of plants and herbs. Drawing on the Bible’s Songs of Songs, on verses by Virgil and Horace and on the poetry of Baudelaire and Verhaeren, the lyrics tell of the game of love, of longing and heartbreak, of the sweet fragrance of jasmine and the beauty of a tree. Above all, they celebrate nature, which is breathtaking and unfathomable. Traditional songs from Portugal, Greece and Iceland, the mystical sounds of Hildegard Von Bingen and fifteenth-century polyphony have been adapted and supplemented with specially written compositions. It is music for daydreaming, both spiritual and sensuous, worldly and celestial – as an ode to life and its mysteries.

Inspired by this music, theatre-makers Peter De Bie and Sara Sampelayo created an alchemistic laboratory. The audience sits in a pentagram with the musicians around them. This ancient form refers to the theory of the quintessenses or five elements which make up all living things. Alchemists believed that the fifth substance can only be attained through a life-long search – hence their experiments to find the ‘ultimate gold’.

Against a background of music, the audience witnesses all kinds of experiments, whereby ingredients are transformed into something else using an alchemistic process of dissolution, fermentation, distillation and so forth. Liquid turns to solid; wet to dry; cold to hot, and vice versa. Oil solidifies to form edible pearls, a bud produces an electrical sensation, a mineral turns out to be a sweet treat…

The result of this visual spectacle is a sensory experience of balsams, powders, drinks and canapés of every smell, colour and taste, served to the audience by the performers and shared with those seated next to you. Conviviality as consolation, because the question remains: will the ‘ultimate gold’ ever be found?

Laika and Zefiro Torna COPRODUCED WITH Le Volcan, scène nationale du Havre and Le Channel, scène nationale de Calais I WITH THE SUPPORT OF of The Flemish Community and the Federal Belgian Government's Tax Schelter scheme  |  MUSICAL CONCEPT, LUTE, BAROQUE GUITAR, CHITARRONE Jurgen De bruyn SENSORY CONCEPT Peter De Bie and Sara Sampelayo DIRECTOR Jo Roets VOCALS Elly Aerden, Raphaël De Cock and Jurgen De bruyn CHATKAN Elly Aerden FLUTE, SOPRANO SAXOPHONE AND COMPOSITION Philippe Laloy RECORDERS, FRENCH BAGPIPES, BUGLE, PERCUSSION, UKULELE, SINGING AND COMPOSITIONS Jowan Merckx UILLEANN PIPES, BAWU, CHATKAN, KAVAL, HARDANGER FIDDLE, OVERTONE FLUTE, JEW’S HARP, DUDUK, SINGING AND OVERTONE SINGING Raphaël De Cock BASS CLARINET Jean-Philippe Poncin ALCHEMISTS Peter De Bie, Sara Sampelayo/Simone Milsdochter and Bram Smeyers/Arnout Vandamme COSTUMES Manuela Lauwers DRAMATURGY Mieke Versyp CULINARY 'INJECTION' CONTEMPORARY Alexandre Gauthier TECHNICIANS AND PRODUCTION Marlies Jacques, Pieter Smet, Rik Van Gysegem, Anton Van Haver IN ASSOCIATION WITH Kopspel vzw
Tour dates
Show past datesHide past dates
January 2020
Le Channel +33 (0)321 467700
Fr31/0120:00 Premiere
February 2020
Le Channel +33 (0)321 467700
March 2020
Le Havre
Le Volcan +33 (0)235 191006
July 2020
We01/0720:00 Premiere
Th02/0716:00, 20:00
Fr03/0716:00, 20:00
Sa04/0716:00, 20:00
Su05/0716:00, 20:00
Th09/0716:00, 20:00
Fr10/0716:00, 20:00
Sa11/0716:00, 20:00
Su12/0716:00, 20:00
Th16/0716:00, 20:00
Fr17/0716:00, 20:00
Sa18/0716:00, 20:00
Su19/0716:00, 20:00
Th23/0716:00, 20:00
Fr24/0716:00, 20:00
Sa25/0716:00, 20:00
Su26/0716:00, 20:00
September 2020
Sa26/0915:00, 20:00
Su27/0915:00, 20:00
June 2021
Lens Cedex
Sa12/0612:00, 19:00
"In a way, BALSAM is the perfect show to remind us what theatre is all about: seeing and hearing, but also feeling. It’s about being there. How we have hungered for this over the last few weeks! For this nutritious togetherness, for this shared sensuousness. For this poetry."
"... a compelling and breathtaking experience ..."
"Laika and Zefiro Torna tantalize the senses. A godsend for those looking for a breath of fresh air after months of virtual culture."
"BALSAM indulges the ears, eyes and taste buds in the most genial way, inviting you to open yourself up to life and experience the world with sensitivity and sensibility."
"... a phenomenal show on all levels..."
'BALSAM', sur toutes les bouches
"... un étonnant voyage ultra-sensoriel. Célébration du partage et des sens, BALSAM fait office de remède après les rigueurs du confinement."
"There is something melancholy about the show, but it is also full of hope. The opening show of this extraordinary Zomer van Antwerpen could not have been more symbolic."