Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Avignon: Memories of Sarajevo and Dans les Ruines d’Athènes. Symphonies of Pain, part 5.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

A creation of the Le Birgit ensemble, Paris. Music by Grégoire Letouvet, Romain Maron; Set Design by Camille Duchemin, Lighting by Grégoire de Lafond, Video by Pierre Nouvel

MEMORIES OF SARAJEVO - LE BIRGIT ENSEMBLE - (c) Christophe Raynaud De Lage  Photo: Christophe Reynaud De Lage

Memories of Sarajevo and Dans les ruines d’Athènes are the two concluding parts of the tetralogy Europe mon amour created by Julie Bertin and Jade Herbulot, the founders of the Paris based theatre company Le Birgit Ensemble.

Conceived in the genre of a nation play – defined by Michael Billington as a theatre play that takes stock of the state of the nation and instigates social  change – Europe, mon amour provides an overview of  European history, as it unfolded after the World War Two.  Memories of Sarajevo  presents an exploration of the 1992 – 1996 siege of Sarajevo, Dans les  Ruines d’Athènes  is a study of the recent economic collapse of Greece.


Dans les ruines d’Athènes. Photo Christope Reynaud De Lage.

Born in the mid 80s, the company’s directors and its fourteen members, present a homogeneous group of collaborators. They belong to the generation of young Europeans, who grew up affected by the new political, economic and social freedoms and who challenge the political and economic practices of the European Union.

They have no sentimental attachment to this history, they are ready to ask difficult questions and call European governments to be responsible for their failures. Le Birgit Ensemble is also unique in its professional make up, as it consists of a group of young artists, who studied together at Le Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique (CNSAD). They share artistic language and methods, they research and create their productions together as well. Still, the two productions presented in the Avignon 2017 were very different in style and directorial approaches.

(Continue reading » )

Avignon. Antigone. The Symphonies of Pain part 3.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

Texte : SOPHOCLE –
Traduction : Shigetake YAGINUMA –
Mise en scène : Satoshi MIYAGI –
Musique : Hiroko TANAKAWA –
Scénographie : Junpei KIZ –
Lumière : Koji OSAKO –
Costumes : Kayo TAKAHASHI –
Coiffure et maquillage : Kyoko KAJITA –
Lieu : Cour d’Honneur du Palais des Papes –
Ville : Avignon –
Le 04 07 2017 –
Photo : Christophe RAYNAUD DE LAGE

Antigone  by Sophocles, directed by Satoshi Miyagi;  music by Hiroko Tanakawa; scenography by Junpei Kiz

Sophocles’ Antigone directed by  Satoshi Miyagi and presented at the heart of the Avignon festival, in the Palais des papes, is one more example of a theatre  as a  symphony  of pain.

Antigone – much like the other productions –  is also a play about war, injustice and suffering. It concerns the death of a young woman whose personal goal was to bury her brother and put his soul to rest.  One of the foundational myths of Western consciousness, in Satoshi Miyagi’s theatrical universe,  this Greek tragedy also links  the traditions of Japanese Noh theatre and the philosophy of Buddhist monks. (Continue reading » )

Avignon. Saigon. Symphonies of Pain part 4

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,

SAÏGON – 71e Festival d’Avignon –
Texte et mise en scène : Caroline GUIELA NGUYEN –
Collaboration artistique : Claire CALVI –
Dramaturgie : Jérémie SCHEIDLER – Manon WORMS –
Traduction : Duc Duy Nguyen, Thi Thanh Thu Tô
Scénographie : Alice DUCHANGE
Lumière : Jérémie PAPIN
Son : Antoine RICHARD
Costumes : Benjamin MOREAU
 Gymnase du Lycée Aubanel –
Photo: Christophe  Raynaud  De Lage.











Caroline Guiela Nguyen has created a four-hour  theatrical tale based on the history of Vietnam.  Its story centres on  colonialism and the struggle for independence, reflected in the lives of several Vietnamese families, who left Saigon for France. Nguyen is an offspring of this exodus. For her,  the post-colonial history of Vietnam, and the history of Hồ Chí Minh–city, the city of Saigon,    the one that “we can tell only with tears in our eyes”, is  part of her identity and her artistic exploration.  The play captures  the drama of departures and returns, the tragedy of unfulfilled hopes and the suffering of misunderstanding. (Continue reading » )

Avignon: Standing in Time Symphonies of Pain part 2

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,

Standing in Time, Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Standing in Time.  texts by Rasha Abbas.  Direction, scenography by Lemi Ponifasio; sound design by Lemi Ponifasio (Auckland)

Lemi Ponifasio’s Standing in Time, also the example of a  symphony of pain,  speaks as well of abused women, the victims of history and colonial genocide. Ponifasio’s context is very different from  that of Munyaneza’s because she meditates on the  history of colonial oppression in New Zealand. The style of the production is highly informed by the performative culture of everyday rituals, religious ceremonies, celebrations and mourning as practiced by the mauri women from the New Zealand islands.  (Continue reading » )

Avignon: Unwanted. Symphonies of Pain part 1

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,

Conception et chorégraphie : Dorothée MUNYANEZA –
Artiste plasticien : Bruce CLARKE –
Musique :
Holland ANDREWS –
Alain MAHÉ –
Dorothée MUNYANEZA –
Scénographie : Vincent GADRAS –
Lumière : Christian DUBET –
Costumes : Stéphanie COUDERT –
lieu: Villeneuve-lès-Avignon –
Photo: Christophe Raynaud De Lage

8: Production addresses pressing issues and fears of today

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada   ,

Guest Critic: Yana Meerzon

Photo: David Ospina

On November 8, 2016, America elected its 45th President, Donald Trump, whose political forays, populist statements and neo-nationalist decrees, as well as Twitter type of communication, evoke the Russian poet –futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky’s manifesto “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” (1917). By slapping  public taste, however, Mayakovsky aimed to change the role of arts in society, while Trump aims to change society itself. Trump’s aggressive and dangerous practices also bring into question  the role performing arts can play in resisting this type of political discourse and law-making.

Mani Soleymanlou, a Québécois artist of Iranian origin, and his company Orange Noyée, ask a similar question. With their new production 8 they inquire: what can theatre artists and intellectuals, socially and politically engaged individuals, do to resist the phantasmagoria of the Trump-lead era of history? What devices of political performance can make true social impact, in a  time when peoples’ political opinions and politics itself are formed over social media, through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? (Continue reading » )

“…our own reality, like Kemeid’s text, remains ambiguous and undecided.” Aeneid at Stratford.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, stratford 2016  

First published in, September 13,  2016.

In today’s political, economic and social climate, with mass migration turning into a new norm, it is impossible not to think of Olivier Kemeid’s dramaturgy as farsighted and foretelling. The Quebecois playwright published L’Eneide, his dramatic adaptation of Virgil’s poem, in 2008 before the current migration crisis. Yet with its tenacious questioning of the potential impact of the presence of new immigrants on the rapidly changing western world, Kemeid’s adaption of Virgil’s The Aeneid becomes tremendously urgent. Through its poetic language, stylized movement and surrealist imagery, both Kemeid’s text and director Keira Loughran’s production speak of migration in historical and philosophical terms, aiming for a deeper understanding of the encounter between ordinary people (migrants) and nation-states.

(Continue reading » )

Creating Communities – Reflecting New Europe: “La nuit des taupes” (Welcome to Caveland) and “Web of Trust” presented at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

 Photo: Luc Vleminck

“Web of Trust” by Edit Kaldor Photo: Luc Vleminck

Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels: “La nuit des taupes” (Welcome to Caveland!) by Philippe Quesne (Nanterre-Amandiers – centre dramatique national) and “Web of Trust” by Edit Kaldor (Stichting Kata, Amsterdam).

Reporting from a theatre festival is a special task. Often a reviewer watches two or three shows in one day, participates in discussions, meets friends and students. The work is hectic. Still the thinking must be done and the critical opinion proposed.

In the following, I provide some observations on two productions I saw in Brussels on May 8, 2016. Although La nuit des taupes (Welcome to Caveland!) by Philippe Quesne and Web of Trust by Edit Kaldor are radically different in their performative styles, they share a specific concern, something that I see more as a unifying-thread in the 2016 edition of Kunstenfestivaldesarts. (Continue reading » )

Last Dream (On Earth): The Intimacy of the Impossible – The Truth of the Unimaginable

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,


Photo: Deanne Jones

Yana Meerzon has seen this production by the National Theatre of Scotland, presented in Romania during the XV Europe Theatre Festival   (in English with Romanian subtitles).

In his much quoted dictum that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’, Theodor Adorno contemplates the ethical responsibility of an artist to speak about and on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust, the 20th century’s major horror. This phrase and Adorno’s concern acquire similar echoing today when theatre, literature, film, and other media begin to seek more appropriate ways to represent the atrocities of migration, global terrorism and civil wars through arts.

In its production Last Dream (On Earth), written and directed by Kai Fischer, The National Theatre of Scotland, a recipient of the 13th Europe Prize Theatrical Realities, XV Europe Theatre Festival, approaches this issue with all the elegance, sincerity and respect that representing the current migration crisis on stage demands.

As the title suggests, Last Dream (On Earth) is constructed at the intersection of seemingly unrelated material: the actual transcripts of the tape-recorded communications between Yuri Gagarin and ground control that took place during his flight to space and the interviews Kai Fischer made during his visits to a refugee centre in Malta and his stay in Morocco. The themes of these two story-lines are however closely related. Both of them speak of the courage one needs to encounter the unknown, be it Gagarin’s decision to volunteer for the space program or the peoples’ misery that forces them to flee their homes.

(Continue reading » )

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