Bigmouth's Valentijn Dhaenens on speeches that shift history

Valentijn Dhaenens explores the power and art of the speech. "Some people can change the course of history by just opening their mouth."
Belgian stage actor Valentijn Dhaenens stars in Big Mouth, a play about the power of speeches. (Maya Wilsens)

Powerful speeches have inspired onlookers to laugh, cry — and take up arms to go to war. So what makes a memorable dispatch from the podium?

Valentijn Dhaenens, creator and actor behind the play Bigmouthhas some theories. After scanning 2500 years-worth of speeches, he's highlighted a select few that have changed the course of history.

When you're at the right place at the right time and have the right skills, "you can move people in a certain direction," he tells Shad, adding that "some people can change the course of history by just opening their mouth."

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's style is mostly spectacle, says Dhaenens. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)
When asked to comment on the headline-making rhetoricians of today, such as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Dhaenens says he recognizes several devices. Speaking to an imagined enemy, and yelling things people normally whisper, for instance. 

Trump's approach isn't anything new, says the actor, adding that he hears echoes of the Second World War. 

"I immediately hear other people saying this before him ... extreme right-wing people in Belgium," he says. "It's the technique of going straight-forward ... people see that he doesn't hesitate and they find that very attractive."

WEB EXTRA | The wide-ranging, emotionally-charged and morally ambiguous play opened in Toronto earlier this week. Watch the trailer for Bigmouth below. Can you recognize any speeches? 



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