"Mitrović’s concept is absolutely brilliant in the way it combines political speech-making with the type of reality TV show."

SPEAK! (2013)

Performance with two performers, voting machines and political speeches

In SPEAK!,Sanja Mitrović continues her exploration of various systems of communication. The meaning, effects and the manipulative potential of language have consistently played an important role in her practice as performer, theatre director and choreographer. Mitrović is attentive to the specific and often ambivalent power of public speaking – both as a performance act and as a historical event that, at certain moments, can fundamentally influence the society in which we live.

Collaborating closely with Flemish performer Geert Vaes, for this new project Mitrović looks at the principles of rhetoric to arrive at an understanding of our contemporary political and media culture. In recent times, political speech has increasingly become a media spectacle. The speaker communicates not only with a live audience, but also with the wider population, through newspapers, television and Internet.

In this situation it often seems like the “what” of the political message is heavily influenced by, if not downright blurred with, “how” the message is delivered. In marketing this is a given: good storytellers make for the best salesmen. Transposing this idea onto political leaders, one could argue that it is the good storytellers who rule the world. If the ever-growing role of the so-called “spin doctors” determines the course of action for a political leader, then to what extent do we, as the electorate or the audience, allow ourselves to be manipulated? Are we even interested in facing the facts or do we free willingly consent to being fed half-truths and lies? To take it one step further, who is this persona, the political orator  – is (s)he genuine or artificial, a real person or a fictitious construct?

Working with a wealth of historical material, two performers try to catch the emotion behind the words, they are in pursuit of a perfect speech and the most effective way to perform

it. The audience is there to be seduced and taken in by either one or the other. Marked with subtile humour, driven by playfulness and at moments painful, SPEAK! is a performance about the power and virtuosity of public speaking that moves from spoken word to choreographed sequences to musical numbers.

In the meantime, professor Luuk Lagerwerf from University of Amsterdam has been doing the analysis on the voting preferences of the audience of SPEAK! The first results of this research you can read here. Further research results will be publicly announced in the winter of 2013/2014.

Cast And Credits

Concept/choreography/direction: Sanja Mitrović. Performance: Jorre Vandenbussche (Matthieu Sys, Geert Vaes), Sanja Mitrović. Dramaturgy: Jonas Rutgeerts. Stage and light design: Laurent Liefooghe & Christophe Antipas (LLAC architects). Sound: Luka Ivanović. Costume: Frédérick Denis Research: Friso Wiersum. Production: Sarah Doridam. Photo: Bea Borgers. Special thanks to Frits Bloemberg – Het Debatbureau, Den Haag (NL); Alexander Chu, Misha Downey, and Annet Huizing

Production: Stand Up Tall Productions, Amsterdam. Co-production: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels (BE). Supported by: Beursschouwburg (Brussels), Les Brigittines (Brussels), Pianofabriek (Brussels), STUK Kunstencentrum (Leuven), NOW.be, SPRING Performing Arts Festival (Utrecht). Financially supported by: Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, Performing Arts Fund NL


  • n.a.v. van de Paradevoorstelling: ... Een geraffineerd en boeiend college taalbehandeling.

    Vincent Kouters, De Volkskrant (in dutch), 07.07.2017
  • n.a.v. van de Paradevoorstelling … Sanja Mitrović en Matthieu Sys brengen de speeches met een bijzondere overtuigingskracht.

    Cultuurbewust (in dutch), 14.07.2014
  • Text

    L'Envolée Culturelle (in french), 25.10.2015
  • Mitrović’s concept is absolutely brilliant in the way it combines political speech-making with the type of reality TV show in which the audience votes for the participant of their choice.

    Jackie Fletcher, British Theatre Guide (in english), 12.05.2013
  • Sanja Mitrović brengt met Speak! een intrigerende voorstelling over hoe mensen zich laten misleiden door mooie woorden. – ****

    Elfriede Clijsters, cobra.be (in dutch), 10.05.2013
  • In Speak! legt theatermaakster Sanja Mitrović zich toe op de speech. Vorm en inhoud variëren, maar de emoties achter de woorden blijken cruciaal als het om overreding gaat. – ****

    Moos van den Broek, Theaterkrant (in dutch), 16.05.2013
  • Het best zijn de theatrale grapjes waarmee Mitrovic de ernst soms verstoort.- ****

    Mirjam van der Linden, Volkskrant (in dutch), 18.05.2013
  • Interessant aan het feit dat je een winnaar moet kiezen, is dat het de toeschouwer aan het denken zet waarom hij de ene speech beter vindt dan de andere.- ***

    Robbert van Heuven, Trouw (in dutch), 18.05.2013
  • Het vernuftige aan ‘SPEAK!’ is dat we pas na afloop van een stemronde te zien krijgen van welke wereldleider de speeches zijn geweest waarop we zojuist stemden. Dat bijna veertig procent op deze wijze ‘koos’ voor (een speech van) Hitler zet aan tot nadenken over de invloed van onder andere retorica en charisma op ons stemgedrag tijdens verkiezingen.-****

    Jasmijn Sprangers, Cuttingedge.nl (in dutch), 19.05.2013