Singer and performer Nele Van den Broeck: ‘My success in Belgium meant moving to London was an exercise in modesty’
The Belgian theatremaker is taking her autobiographical show Nele Needs a Holiday: The Musical to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, while another of her shows, How to Fail at Being Perfect, recently had its second run at London’s Lyric Hammersmith. She tells Jamie Body what it was like to start afresh in London after building her career in Belgium…
What was the inspiration behind How to Fail at Being Perfect?
I wanted to write a play about the pressures from society on kids and the pressure to be perfect. I was a drama facilitator at the Lyric Hammersmith for a year and had a lot to go on. I wrote the title of the show before I started it. It’s set in a dystopian future in which Neverland has been privatised and Peter Pan is making money by hiring out children for any occasion. We made the show in three weeks. I shouldn’t say this about myself, but it turned out great.
Tell me about the show you’re taking to Edinburgh this year.
Nele Needs a Holiday: The Musical is a fictionalised version of my own life story. I moved to London in 2014. Having been successful and well-known back in Belgium, moving here was an exercise in modesty. I had to figure out a way to make music and theatre work in London, it’s really different to Belgium. A lot of people in the UK always say: “You have to go to Edinburgh.” But when I talked to people who have actually been, most of them said how they lost a lot of money doing it. I always said I wouldn’t do Edinburgh without having some help behind me and I am very lucky to be working with Big in Belgium. They take Belgian artists they believe in and help them with the production of their Edinburgh show.
Do you enjoy working in London?
I love working in London and that I can make my pop songs and combine that with theatre, taking those two passions of mine and really making them into something. I can create a total piece of art that allows me to use all the qualities and talents I believe I have. No one here asks who you are or what you do, so you can do anything. I consider myself a travelling artist, as that’s what I do: I travel to Belgium for work and then to London for work. I love it. I will not be able to do this after Brexit, a subject I am still very sad about.
What advice do you have for emerging performers?
I really like to work with all-rounders, and I like to be an all-rounder myself. I love that I can act, write music, direct and create theatre. My advice is to keep developing as many skills as you can, and go home and play the piano. You never know when it’s going to be useful.
CV: Nele Van den Broeck
Training: BA in acting from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (2006); MA in directing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium (2008); MA in music production at London College of Creative Media (2014)
First professional role: Performer in Singhet Ende Weset Vro at the Royal Flemish Theater (2007)
Nele Needs a Holiday: The Musical is at the Ovalhouse in London from July 18-21 ahead of its Edinburgh Fringe run, from August 1-26 at Summerhall