Secret Face

I would like to talk to people about clocks
About the fragility of the mechanisms
The narrowness of the springs
The dark sides of the cog wheels
These days, no one gives a clock a moment’s thought
Maybe that’s why people are sad?
They don’t feel the life behind the small and the big hands!

I would like to share the secret of clocks with people.
Then they would open their eyes.
Then they might perhaps make and tell their own stories.

With Secret Face the Turkish-Belgian producer/theatremaker Mesut Arslan presents a theatre adaptation of ‘Gizli Yüz’ (The Hidden Face), the only film script of Turkish author and Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk. For his evocative text and light choreography, Arslan works with a Flemish-Turkish team of actors and with scenographer Erki De Vries.

From 1985 till 1989 Pamuk wrote The Black Book, an inventive novel intertwined with mysterious, fairy tale stories. Pamuk developed one of these stories, The Hidden Face, into a film script for the well- known Turkish producer Ömer Kavur. The film won awards in Montreal and Antalya, including the best script award. Mesut Arslan drew inspiration from this surreal movie for his theatre adaptation.

In The Secret Face, a lady asks a photographer to take pictures in bars in Istanbul at night. While he is mainly interested in the lady, the lady is fascinated by the faces of the people in the pictures, and especially by one particular man, who turns out to be a watchmaker. When the lady disappears , the photographer starts looking for her. During his search through different cities he gets in touch with watchmakers, bell towers, film images and a thief of lost dreams.

Arslan will not only use Pamuk’s film script, but he will also represent the central themes of the story – identity, time, perception- by using an atypical casting and a very prominent scenographic light concept. Two men (Yves De Pauw, Tom Van Landuyt) and two women (Lotte Heijtenis, Deniz Polatliglu Cohen) with different backgrounds and physiognomies will play the main characters, their commentators or their subconscious selves in changing roles. An inventive light choreography of moving neon lights will guide the spectator’s view through a sequence of snapshots, just like a photograph or film, as each time only part of the scene and the actors will be lit. Thus, by means of text, exchange of roles, choreography and light, Arslan reveals ‘the hidden faces’ of the characters.

Mesut Arslan

The director and theatre-maker Mesut Arslan grew up in the Turkish city of Izmir. At the age of twenty he flew to Belgium on his own. After a few years he concentrated on the theatre and set up his own company, the Anatolië Theater Groep (ATG), which was most successful among the Turkish community. He gradually developed a style of his own that evolved towards a visual idiom into which language was incorporated in an experimental way. In addition, he also set up Platform 0090, a workplace and hub for research into, and the creation and presentation of multidisciplinary art with references to the Midwest.

Since 2017 Mesut Arslan is an associated artist in KVS. For his first KVS creation, Mesut Arslan returned to his theatre hero Eric De Volder to tackle Nachtelijk Symposium. He also worked on the production Kamyon, together with Michael De Cock.

Erki De Vries

As a visual artist Erki De Vries developed his own style using installations and videos to research spacial relationships and how they effect on the way we experience them. His installations are characterized by the co-existence of a tangible and a mental world. His quintessential concept, movement and integrated light-effects result in a strong performative character.

Erki regularly co-operates with other artists developing performances, theatre pieces and exhibitions. A co-operation with choreographer Benjamin Vandewalle resulted in “Birdwatching” and “One zero”. As a scenographer he worked together with, - among others -, Thomas Ryckewaert, Andros Zinse-Brown and Mesut Arslan. Since 2012 he also cooperates with Peter Huybrechts on the elaboration of “BookProject”, an ongoing project where photography, video-work and the development of a book are alternating and stimulating one another. The development of “BookProject” can be followed on


Text: Orhan PamukDirector: Mesut ArslanScenography & lighting design: Erki De VriesDramaturgy: Ata UnalWith: Yves De Pauw, Lotte Heijtenis, Deniz Polatoglu, Tom Van LanduytSound: Stijn DemeulenaereCostumes: Johanna Trudzinski Direction assistance: Çiğdem y MirolTechnique: Turan TayarProduction: OnderHetVel, 't Arsenaal and Platform 0090Co-production: Europalia, wpZimmer and Istanbul Theatre Festival