Professional Theatre

Grensgeval (Borderline) A theatrical exploration of the refugee crisis.

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

GRENSGEVAL – 71e FESTIVAL D’AVIGNON –
Texte : Elfriede JELINEK –
Traduction Tom KLEIJN –
Mise en scène : Guy CASSIERS –
Chorégraphie : Maud LE PLADEC –
Scénographie, costumes : Tim VAN STEENBERGEN –
Lumière : Fabiana PICCIOLI –
Vidéo : Frederik JASSOGNE –
Son : Diederik DE COCK –
Dans le cadre du 71e Festival d’Avignon –
Lieu : Parc des Expositions –
Ville : Avignon –
Photo : Christophe RAYNAUD DE LAGE –

Grensgeval   (Borderline).Based on Les Suppliants by Elfriede Jelinek.
Directed by Guy Cassiers, choreography by Maud Le Pladec, A Toneelhuis, Antwerp production.

Migration, refugee crisis and crossing borders are among the most pressing political, social and economic issues of today’s Europe. The situation is alarming and confusing both on the level of everyday life and politically, with many people in power trying to manipulate public opinion against refugees. Politically aware artists are actively engaged in searching to contribute to their audiences’ better understanding of the new world. They seek appropriate artistic language to discuss atrocities that refugees experience and to speak to their spectators’ compassion.
Guy Cassiers is one of these engaged artists. An artistic director of the Toneelhuis in Antwerp, Cassiers has been looking into the issues of migration for the past several seasons. He not only focusses his programing on this topic but also creates events aimed at educating the subscribers to his theatre about the new European conditions,  seeking to engage refugees to be more actively involved in the cultural life of Antwerp.
(more…)

Avignon: Ibsen huis – La Maison d’Ibsen, Ibsen reinvented !

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

Ibsen Huis, Avignon 2017
Photo. Christian Raynaud de Lage.

Ibsen Huis (La Maison d’Ibsen) Directed by Simon Stone, dramaturgy and translation by Peter van Kraaij, set design by Lizzie clachan, a production by the Toneelgroep Amsterdam

Ibsen Huis  is an homage to the genius of Henrik Ibsen, the first European playwright to study the complex intricacies of human psychology and behaviour, conditioned by our follies, indulgences, and failures.  However, the play is  neither a simple staging of one of Ibsen’s plays, nor is  it a  modern adaptation. This is a new script and production inspired by Ibsen’s characters in conflict.  Created and written by the director Simon Stone and the members of this company  hand-picked for this project, Ibsen Huis  tells a story of the modern dysfunctional family, through the 50-year span of its history. (more…)

The Virgin Trial :Kate Hennig’s latest Tudor thriller is superior to the production it gets at Stratford.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

virginindex

The Virgin Trial. Photo Cylla von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — Tudor England in all its drama and turbulence continues to attract a huge following in today’s popular culture. From the reign of King Henry Vlll through to the Gloriana days of Elizabeth 1, we’ve had an unending cycle of popular and academic history, best-selling fiction, movies, television series and stage plays.

It’s inevitable that we often get more mythology than history and that the speculative often vies with the factual for our attention. Purists may harrumph about this — will we, for example, ever know for certain the truth about Elizabeth’s virginity? But can we deny that, even centuries afterwards, Tudor times remain urgently, irresistibly alive to us?

Part of the explanation must surely lie in the fact that we’re dealing with formidable personalities. A couple of years ago, dramatist Kate Hennig showed her awareness of this in her debut play, The Last Wife, which received a sterling production last season at Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company. It focussed on Catherine Parr, Henry Vlll’s last Queen and a lady who — given the history of her predecessors — showed an impressive capacity for survival. Hennig’s evocation of the dying days of a tyrant’s reign was aflame with dramatic tension, but it was the play’s status as a richly realized character piece that gave it the momentum it needed. And it compelled us to give our full attention to the complex personalities of the key players — not just Henry and Catherine, but also Henry’s two very bright but psychologically different daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as that shady but charming opportunist Thomas Seymour who would marry the widowed Catherine and also pursue some kind of relationship with the young Elizabeth, a relationship whose very nature has kept us guessing for centuries.

(more…)

Old Stock. A Refugee Love Story. A contemporary Jewish folktale superbly performed!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

moscovitch16334-old_stock_ben-caplan__large

Old Stock.  Ben Caplan as the narrator. Photo: National Arts Centre English  Theatre

Old Stock : A Refugee Love Story  written by  Hannah Moscovitch. Songs by Ben  Caplan and Christian Barry. Directed by Christian Barry.

An old man emerging from the smoky top of an apparently abandoned train, the suggestion of a painful transportation that took place during WWII, suddenly transforms this structure into the site of a travelling theatre, resounding with music, that has “appeared” out of the past with its lively Klezmer Rumanian Jewish /Gypsy background bringing together a huge audience ready to hear its tales, including a love story that must be told.  With music that brings much to the dramatic intensity of the show, this theatrical company of theatre within theatre, is  transported into the present with its  four musicians/actors and a narrator-superb singer, dancer and actor Ben Caplan- under the direction of Christian Barry.

(more…)

Avignon: Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen. Das Leben des Herrn de Molière

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

DIE KABALE DER SCHEINHEILIGEN. DAS LEBEN DES HERRN DE MOLIÈRE - FRANK CASTORF - (c) Christophe Raynaud De Lage

Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen. directed by Frank Castorf  (Berlin).  Set design by Aleksandar Denic. Photo Christian Raynaud De Lage.

Based on Le Roman de Monsieur de Molière by Mikhail Bulgakov, with additional texts by Pierre Corneille, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Molière, Jean Racine

Frank Castorf’s reputation precedes his creations. The director-monumentalist is known for his epic adaptations of the western literary canon and innovations in stage design, specifically the use of film on stage.  Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen  lives up to its reputation. It presents a full range of Castorf’s directorial palette.  Even if the six hour theatrical marathon might feel a little over-stretched – do we really need a clown routine with a chair for another 20 minutes? – the play is something to be experienced live at least once, and definitely here, at the Avignon theatre festival.

The story of this colossal production is based on the life of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Molière, his complex relation with King Louis XIV and the Catholic Church, his personal affairs, his theatrical triumphs, and his fall orchestrated by his enemies, all of it as imagined and told by the Russian-Soviet writer, Mikhail Bulgakov.

(more…)

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

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

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.

3.DANS LES RUINES D’ATHÈNES - LE BIRGIT ENSEMBLE - (c) Christophe Raynaud De Lage

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.

(more…)

Avignon. Antigone. The Symphonies of Pain part 3.

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

ANTIGONE – FESTIVAL D AVIGNON – 71e EDITION –
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 –
A
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. (more…)

Avignon. Saigon. Symphonies of Pain part 4

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

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. (more…)

Avignon: Standing in Time Symphonies of Pain part 2

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

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.  (more…)

Avignon: Unwanted. Symphonies of Pain part 1

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

UNWANTED –
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

Past Reviews