Capital Critics' Circle / Le cercle des critiques de la capitale http://capitalcriticscircle.com Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region / La critique thrêátrale de la rêgion Ottawa-Gatineau Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:43:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Grensgeval (Borderline) A theatrical exploration of the refugee crisis. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/grensgeval-borderline-theatrical-exploration-refugee-crisis-es-refugee-crisis/ Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:38:27 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11549 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 …Continue reading →

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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.

Grensgeval (Borderline)  is one of Cassiers’s latest works. It reflects his political program and theatre philosophy :  to make encounters between the stage and the audience the space of historical reflection. In his previous works, Cassiers looked into other dark histories of Europe, including  World War II and specifically the Holocaust. For Avignon 2017, he also created a play Le sec et l’humide, based on the novel by Jonathan Littell, dedicated to exploring the language of fascism as ordinary evil.

Grensgeval continues this exploration. Inspired by Elfriede Jelinek’s 2013-2015 play The Supplicants (in the English translation), it offers a theatrical attempt to bring the impossible even closer.   Jelinek’s text is written more as a chant than a dramatic dialogue, with no characters or dramatic actions.  Cassiers’s staging turns this text into a theatrical requiem, with four narrators speaking the lines and sixteen dancers (the students of The Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp) enacting movement. The genre of this production is quite difficult to determine: it includes elements of modern dance, poetry recitation, dance-teatr, with some video projections at the beginning.

The action consists of three parts reflecting the tripartite structure of the exilic journey, such as departure, arrival and settlement. These parts, as Cassiers explains, also correspond to the Stations of the Cross, referring to the thirteen  iconographic images depicting  all the steps of Jesus’ crucifixion and his dying on the cross.

The action, however, is derived of emotion. Interested in experimenting with potentials of theatrical sound and inspired by the chant-like quality of Jelinek’s text, Cassiers separates voices from bodies, creating a type of  out-of-body experience as reported by the refugees-survivors. The narrators speak Jelinek’s lines in monotonous if not lifeless voices; the dancers movements evoke different experiences and metaphors of the exilic flight.

 In the first part, the faces of the narrators are projected in  black-white on the back wall; whereas the dancers conjure up images of crossing the sea in a boat.  The narrators’ faces are out focus, exaggerated and blurred, detached from their bodies.

In the second part, the narrators begin to mingle with the dancers, as if the voices and the bodies had found a way  to come back together, suggesting the triumphs and losses of arrival.

In the third part, the narrators get lost among the dancers. They speak the lines labouring their way out of the crippled bodies  which cling to them. This third part  is the most visually evocative because the dancers,  together , create a series of tableaux-vivantes evocative of Christian iconography, such as The Descent from the Cross, with the figures of distorted bodies climbing out of Hell, inspired by the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

Overall, however, this production was rather a disappointment. Despite its strong philosophical premise and promising background material, including Jelinek’s hypnotic text as well as the energy of young dancers on stage, Grensgeval felt more like a lost opportunity. Perhaps, it fell victim of the director’s over-thinking the impossibility of bringing together the rupture between the refugees’ experiences in life and their theatrical representation, and thus his desire to find the artistic tone suitable to tragedy not melodrama. As a result, the production turned into a series of beautiful but somewhat over-aestheticized moments, which did not make a coherent or energetic theatrical picture, something that the urgency of the refugee crisis dictates.

In Dutch with French subtitles. Cast: With Avec Katelijne Damen, Abke Haring, Han Kerckhoffs, Lukas Smolders as narrators and the dancers: Samuel Baidoo, Machias Bosschaerts, Pieter Desmet, Sarah Fife, Berta Fornell Serrat, Julia Godina Llorens, Aki Iwamoto, Daan Jaarsveld, Levente Lukacs, Hernan Manchebo Martinez, Alexa Moya Panksep, Marcus Alexander Roydes, Meike Stevens, Pauline van Nuffel, Sandrine Wouters, Bianca Zueneli.  

July 18 -23, 2017  Parc des expositions – Avignon

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Avignon: Ibsen huis – La Maison d’Ibsen, Ibsen reinvented ! http://capitalcriticscircle.com/avignon-ibsen-huis-la-maison-dibsen-ibsen-reinvented/ Sun, 16 Jul 2017 20:07:48 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11492 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, …Continue reading →

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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.

The family includes Frederique and Cornelius, the parents of Cees and Thomas, married to Johanna and Birgit respectively. Cees and Johanna are the parents of Lena and Sebastiaan. Thomas and Birgit have three children: Daniel, Vincent and Caroline. Lena,  married to Jacob, has a daughter called Fleur. Caroline has her own daughter Pip, and is married to Arthur.

However, the  audience needs to know only one thing  and  we learn that in the course of this four-hour theatrical event: Cees is a monster. An award-warning architect, Cees has stolen his projects from his nephew, Daniel. A child molester, he raped not only his own children, Lena and Sebastiaan, but also his niece Caroline. His grandchildren, Fleur and Pip, are the fruits of Cees’ sexual escapades, eventually they also become his victims.

This gruesome and ugly  story reminds us as much of Ibsen’s own theatre as of the  Greek tragedies  which inspired his  theatre as well  as  Eugene O’Neil’s  expressionist theatre which was preceded  by Ibsen’s work.  At the same time Ibsen Huis  feeds  on contemporary TV soap-operas that often, in their convoluted narratives , try to raise to the level of tragic intensity .

Director  Simon Stone  does not hide his artistic aspirations.  In its hyper-realistic style, the play is  modeled on popular television.  The sound-scape  was meticulously designed, amplified and mediated, to produce the effect of a digitalized TV programme.

On stage, we see a replica of a beautiful house that Cees built for his family. It is an elegant, two story transparent structure, possibly  inspired by European  constructivism. The house constantly rotates and with  every turn of this massive structure, there is a temporal change in the narrative. There is also a  spatial transformation  which means that the audience  is able to see the action from different perspectives and  to learn more about the secrets that keep this family together. Thus,  space acquires the power of a metaphor. Although the transparent house is  open to the gaze of strangers and passersby, the suffering experienced by every member of this family still  remains deeply hidden.

The more horrors we discover about this family, with the ghosts of murdered children and dead family members invading the space,  the more surrealist the action becomes and  the faster the house disintegrates. What was a pristine, see-through structure in the first act, turns into its own cadaver in the second.

Built in 1964, when the story begins, the house became Lena and Jacob’s grave, when it caught fire in 2004. In the last part of the play, symbolically called The Inferno, the rebuilt house burns again, this time entombing not only the remaining members of this family, but all its ghostly apparitions. The lovers of Ibsen’s canon will be delighted to recognize in this production, traces of Hedda Gabler,  Ghosts, The  Master Builder, Enemy of the People and The Doll’s House.

What is  difficult to reconcile  are the  grandiose  aspirations that went into the making of this show with the somewhat pedestrian dialogue (based on the  French subtitles) and the melodramatic action.  Nevertheless,  the  work of the actors and the designers, as often happens in such projects, was simply superb.

 In Dutch with French Subtitles. Cast:  Claire Bender, Janni Goslinga, Aus Greidanus jr., Maarten Heijmans, Eva Heijnen, Hans Kesting, Bart Klever, Maria Kraakman, Celia Nufaar, David Roos, Bart Slegers

Presented July 15-20, 2017 in the Cour du Lyc/e Saint-Joseph.

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Old Stock: A refugee love story. (Artsfile.ca) http://capitalcriticscircle.com/old-stock-refugee-love-story-artsfile-ca/ Sun, 16 Jul 2017 18:58:35 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11490 You may never look at a shipping container the same way after seeing Old Stock. Starring Halifax singer-songwriter-actor Ben Caplan, a luxuriantly bearded lad with a grand voice and a remarkable flair for entertaining, the music-play hybrid opens with a closed shipping container at centre stage. As blandly anonymous on the exterior as any container, this one swings opens to …Continue reading →

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You may never look at a shipping container the same way after seeing Old Stock. Starring Halifax singer-songwriter-actor Ben Caplan, a luxuriantly bearded lad with a grand voice and a remarkable flair for entertaining, the music-play hybrid opens with a closed shipping container at centre stage.

As blandly anonymous on the exterior as any container, this one swings opens to reveal a four-piece band and the intimate story of two early-20th-century Jewish refugees who fled from Romania to Canada – refugees who are played by a couple of the musicians.

When the show’s over, the container doors close and your own life goes on, richer for what you’ve seen and heard. It’s a wonderful conceit for a set, this shipping container from who knows where. Designed by Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry and Andrew Cull, it suggests everything from foreign shores to life’s transience to the search for a permanent home, all themes in this smartly textured show……..

Read the rest on www.artsfile.ca

Old Stock is a 2b theatre company (Halifax, N.S.) production, co-produced by the NAC. It was reviewed Thursday. In the Azrieli Studio (NAC) until July 15. Tickets: nac-cna.ca

 

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The Jardin Des Délices: Marie Chouinard renews her sources of inspiration and the effect is magic http://capitalcriticscircle.com/jardin-des-delices-marie-chouinard-renews-sources-inspiration-effect-magic/ Sat, 15 Jul 2017 18:00:25 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11486 Marie Chouinard admits that this performance   represents the “joy of bowing before a masterpiece (NAC program p.3) as she subjects her choreography to the spirit of Bosch’s Triptych  The Garden of Earthly Delights.  The one dimensional  language  of the painter that spreads out on a   flat canvass  before us, marked by the visual esthetics of  the Northern Renaissance ,  is  …Continue reading →

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Marie Chouinard admits that this performance   represents the “joy of bowing before a masterpiece (NAC program p.3) as she subjects her choreography to the spirit of Bosch’s Triptych  The Garden of Earthly Delights.  The one dimensional  language  of the painter that spreads out on a   flat canvass  before us, marked by the visual esthetics of  the Northern Renaissance ,  is  given a new  spirit on the NAC stage. Contemporary androgynous bodies  moving in space  with musical accompaniment,  subjected to predetermined steps and a form of perfectly orchestrated chaos, reveal the  enormous  shift in creativity that was required by Chouinard to capture the spirit of  Bosch’s  three movements  that inspired her work: The  Garden of Earthly Delights, Hell and Paradise.  This performance suggest Milton’s  Paradise lost  as much as Salvador Dali’s form of surrealist transformation  of everyday objects:  see the torture on the ladder, or the long pipes twisting into thrusting buttocks or imaginary birds and hybrid reptiles, where human beings are easily confused with  the most unimaginable creatures and embarrassing body noises. And yet the result  forces us to rethink  the nature of stage performance and how the  work of  Mme Chouinard has become an enormous contribution to the many ways  the human body can become an instrument of representation in space.

The painting was her starting point,  and then, in a manner similar to the work of Daniel Meilleur in the 1990’s, (les Deux Mondes),  after the lights highlight various human bodies on the canvas, a strange vibrating creature slides on stage from the wings, shaking its hands and feet,  lifting its lower parts, hunched over but advancing forward, as if it had just wriggled free from the painting.  First one then two then several bodies moving in a symmetry which is quickly broken and part 1 of the evening is quickly on its way.

This first part becomes a progressively  liberated expression of impulses, of desires (can we really speak of desires since we are no longer sure these individuals are human…), of creatures who resemble species of human animals that whirl about in a garden filled with imaginary plants, luscious fruit,  all manner of roots, buds leaves and parts that find their way on stage. They bite, they chew, they grapple with each other, they change the way their bodies move and mainly, all the recognizable human functions seem to have melted into  something new .

The bodies are transformed by the proximity of imaginative creatures as well as the way human beings are represented in Bosch’s painting itself. Gestures keep the hands stiff, these appear to confirm the  flat one dimensional body on the canvass because the movements suggest the symbolist elements of Afternoon of a Faun,  danced  and choreographed by   Nijinsky  for the Ballet Russe, inspired by the flat Greek figures painted on  antique urns

 

The interaction becomes more violent as the site shifts to “Hell”, the rumbling  human voices resemble  the roaring of lions, and the free movement is even more aggressive, more disarticulated as shrieks echo throughout the soundscape .  The  moving bodies seem to be even more  porous , held by  little internal muscular structure;  arms ,  legs and other body parts fall away, wiggle easily, are not tightly connected and find themselves in positions that are not recognizably  human.  The image of the human figure in the art work of that  period has found its way onto the stage as  Marie Chouinard’s  corporeal instruments  glide snake-like, their faces are  marked by pain and fear as the howling grows stronger , and disconnected heads find their way stuck on  feet, or even in positions a lot more sinister.  Then they move off, it is over and Paradise begins.

Chouinard has captured the visual esthetics  of the period through her dancers’ bodies  and she openly  confirms the debt she owes to  Bosch when the 10 dancers slowly move downstage, out of the light, to become shadows looking over the audience as the painting takes over centre stage again.  The lighting (which Chouinard  arranged herself) then plays a central role  as the shadowy figures clinging together,  move slowly back up stage into the light and as they approach the Bosch backdrop, they  slowly melt away like a visual illusion,  to become  reintegrated into the painting itself.  That final effect was magic.

The intermedial effect of dancing and painting where the dancing bodies  assume the esthetic qualities of the XVIth  century painted body (1515),   was perfectly orchestrated, even if the accessories  resembled contemporary   objects and  the results  send  us throughout the whole history of stage esthetics.   Marie Chouinard  continues her personal path of  corporeal research and each time the results are even more exciting.  The Garden of Earthly Delights will certainly return to the NAC for a longer run next time and it would be a shame to miss it if it does.

The Garden of Earthly Delights  inspired by the work of Hieronymus Bosch

Choreography, set design, video, lighting , costumes and props :    Marie Chouinard

Original music : Louis Dufort

Dancers: Charles Cardin-Bourbeau, Sébastien Cossette-Masse,  Catherine Dagenais- Savard,  Valeria Galluccio,  Motrya Kozbur, Morganne Le  Tiec, Scott McCabe, S acha Ouellette-Deguire,  Carol Prieur, Clémentine Schindler.

A production of the Compagny Marie Chouinard, in association with the Canada Dance Festival.

Created at the  Theaterfestival Boulevard-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, August 4, 2016

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The Virgin Trial :Kate Hennig’s latest Tudor thriller is superior to the production it gets at Stratford. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/the-virgin-trial-kate-hennigs-latest-tudor-thriller-is-superior-to-the-production-it-gets-at-stratford/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 21:10:00 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11480 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 …Continue reading →

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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.

It’s that relationship that supplies the dramatic fuel for The Virgin Trial, the second instalment in Hennig’s Tudor saga. The new play has taken up summer residence at the Stratford Festival’s intimate Studio Theatre and once again reveals the playwright’s gift for psychologically astute characterizations and compelling dialogue garnished with moments of genuine wit. As was the case with its predecessor, it’s done in modern dress. Elizabeth is Bess, Lord Protector Edward Seymour is Ted, brother Thomas Seymour is Thom, and Mary Tudor is — well — Mary. It would be unfair simply to label this approach as gimmickry: indeed it brings into bold relief issues that have never really gone away, issues having to deal with the elusive dynamics of personal relationships and how they can affect a wider world of power politics.

Whereas the bulk of today’s thriving Tudor industry focuses on two aspects — Henry Vlll and his six wives being one, and the reign of Elizabeth the other — Hennig chooses to examine an aspect of Elizabeth’s life that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It has to do with the unrest and skullduggery following the death of Henry and during the reign of the boy king, Edward Vl. It was a time when Elizabeth, in danger for her life, was largely dependent on the dubious mercies of the state for her survival. Historian Margaret Irwin, author of a now forgotten and unjustly neglected cycle of novels dealing with this period, was fascinated with these years — indeed, one of these novels was appropriately entitled Elizabeth, Captive Princess. Hennig is on similar ground here although somewhat more audacious in her theorizing: whereas Irwin’s novels probably constituted G-rated history, Hennig’s reimagining of the Elizabeth mythology is prepared to enter R-rated territory.

It’s the teen-age Bess we’re getting here, a precocious 15-year-old suspected of treason because of her relationship to Thom Seymour, widowed husband to her stepmother, Catherine Parr, and also — some

might say — her lover. The bulk of the play consists of Bess undergoing interrogation by the authorities over the true nature of her relationship with Thom, who is now imprisoned in the Tower, and her possible complicity in the latter’s plot to seize the throne for himself. These scenes are interspersed with flashback sequences and also moments depicting the torture of suspected conspirators.

This is heady dramatic stuff — or at least it should be — served up in a script with all the potential for an exciting and provocative theatrical experience. But although Alan Dilworth’s production does maintain a momentum of sorts, it’s rather stolid and unenterprising in nature, and seems more interested in surface emotions than nuance.

Stratford’s Studio Theatre can be deceptive. The auditorium is tiny, but the stage is actually a good, serviceable size. But how well have Dilworth and designer Yannik Larivee acknowledged its possibilities? Even the scene changes seem clunky. There are a few simple props in the foreground and at the rear there is a scrim through which we see various methods of torture being applied — including, would you believe, Guantanamo-style waterboarding. Some might see the torture sequences as gratuitous and exploitive — but really, apart from seeming mannered in execution, the chief impression they leave is one of growing artificiality and monotony.

And what of the performances? A close-cropped Yanna McIntosh exudes an icy menace as the chief interrogator — Eleanor by name. Nigel Bennett seems a little too mild and ingratiating in the role of Ned — a.k.a. Lord Protector Edward Seymour, brother of the imprisoned Thom — and we need more glimpses of the determined opportunist indulging his own bloody-minded lust for power.

Then there’s Brad Hodder, swaggering his way through the role of Thom in the manner of someone who has just exited the latest trendy coffee bar. Hodder has a natural exuberance that suits the character and he deftly bridges the latter’s transition to defeat and desperation. But although his presence certainly makes an essential contribution to the play’s preoccupation with Elizabeth’s virginity (or possibly her loss of it) this version of Thom Seymour doesn’t convey much of the charisma of the historical figure, a man with a reputation in Tudor times of being irresistible to women. In brief, where is Stewart Granger when we need him? Furthermore, are we really seeing that much chemistry in his scenes with Bahia Watson’s Bess?

As for Watson, she can be a captivating presence on stage, and a key fascination of Hennig’s play comes from those moments when the sharp-witted young Elizabeth employs all her teen-age wiles to confound her interrogators and save her skin. These passages are reminiscent of some of the finest moments of Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, when Sir Thomas More confronts those who seek to destroy him, but is their potential fully realized at Stratford? Elizabeth l was a strong ruler but an enigmatic figure, and it is the enigma that tantalizes in the text of this play. Was this 15-year-old princess a total innocent in the scandal surrounding Thom Seymour? Or was she complicit? And what was the true nature of her relationship with him? Was it just an affectionate flirtation, or something more?

The text suggests a complexly drawn characterization, so Watson needs to allow the role to breathe. That means slowing down instead of being allowed to carry on at some moments like a shrill chatterbox whose speeches sometimes degenerate into garble. There’s a substantial performance lurking here — it just needs the right kind of release.

That leaves Sara Farb as Mary Tudor. This is the future Bloody Mary: wise to the ways of the world, sardonic in her wit, privately seething over the treatment of her mother Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, quietly biding her time as she draws nearer to the throne, and engaged in an edgy relationship with her half-sister, Bess. Farb’s detailed and knowing portrayal of Mary is the best of the evening, and her scenes with Bahia Watson’s Elizabeth the most fascinating. It’s with moments like these that you realize the full power of Hennig’s play.

(The Virgin Trial continues to Sept. 23. Further information at 1 800 567 1600 or stratfordfestival.ca)

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Ottawa Little Theatre: Pardon Me, Prime Minister. Good performances out of weak material. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/ottawa-little-theatre-pardon-me-prime-minister/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:04:00 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11456 Pardon Me, Prime Minister, directed by Josh Kemp. Photo: Maria Vartanova Should you think about going to see Pardon Me, Prime Minister, currently playing at Ottawa Little Theatre, be warned. This weak and dated farce by Edward Taylor and John Graham, first performed in 1979, is not connected to the fine television comedy series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister …Continue reading →

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Pardon Me, Prime Minister, directed by Josh Kemp. Photo: Maria Vartanova

Should you think about going to see Pardon Me, Prime Minister, currently playing at Ottawa Little Theatre, be warned.

This weak and dated farce by Edward Taylor and John Graham, first performed in 1979, is not connected to the fine television comedy series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister — except by trying to force a link through its title.

The plot — if that is not too strong a word for the creaking storyline — is transparent and the climax (again too strong a word for something that is more fizzle than sizzle) is discernible well before the end of the first scene.

In the tradition of British farce, cast members rush through assorted doors and females strip to their underwear, on at least one occasion for absolutely no reason. Sadly, the OLT production features some of the ugliest and most unflattering undies that do nothing to enhance the appearance of the three young women who must wear them. And, while considering the costuming, it might also have been a good idea to spring for three similar dresses in three different sizes, instead of making do with one, for the three actresses of different body types, who must wear them. Along the way, this would also set up an amusing replication of outfits for the curtain call.

To reach this point, director Josh Kemp and his cast must steer through what seems a very long 135 minutes of frenetic activity, mistaken identity and silliness.

All action takes place at 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister George Venables and his determinably puritanical Chancellor of the Exchequer Hector Cramond are ready to release a budget that taxes ‘sinful’ amusements out of existence. In the nick (or, in British farce parlance, the knickers) of time, a striptease artist with a secret arrives to challenge the PM and the dance begins…

The good news about the show — yes, there is some in this worthy attempt to create a silk purse out of the groaningly weak material — is that there are some strong performances and some instances of excellent timing.

As Venables, Andi Cooper wisely starts from a low-key beginning to work into the disaster that could cost him his political career, developing some very amusing moments when he jumps up and down in frustration. By contrast, Andrew Michael McCarville, as the Chancellor, starts at such a high pitch that his only recourse to emphasize a point is to shout.

As Venables’ secretary, Rodney Campbell, Sam Aitken delivers the right tone and expression and the always reliable Janet Uren offers a pleasant characterization of Venables’ slightly ditzy wife, Sybil.

Sarah Olberg, as stripper Shirley Springer, is somewhat heavy-handed in her approach to the role, while, Ellen Manchee, as her mother, Dora, appears more at ease and aware that comedy plays best when treated seriously.

Completing the cast are Katie Torresan, as the hotshot journalist, Lindsay Laviolette, as the Chancellor’s assistant, yearning for Rodney, and Sky, in a cameo appearance as a private detective.

Painful as Pardon Me, Prime Minister is for a non-lover of farce, especially poor farce, the production resulted in an enthusiastic response from some audience members.

Pardon Me, Prime Minister continues at Ottawa Little Theatre to July 29.

Director: Josh Kemp

Set: Sally McIntyre

Lighting: Barry Sim

Sound: David Ing

Costumes: Glynis Ellens

Cast:

George Venables……………………………………Andi Cooper

Rodney Campbell…………………………………..Sam Aitken

Miss Frobisher………………………………………Lindsay Laviolette

Hector Cramond…………………………………….Andrew Michael McCarville

Sybil Venables………………………………………Janet Uren

Shirley Springer……………………………………..Sarah Olberg

Jane Rotherbrook…………………………………….Katie Torresan

Dora Springer………………………………………..Ellen Manchee

Man…………………………………………………..Sky

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Old Stock. A Refugee Love Story. A contemporary Jewish folktale superbly performed! http://capitalcriticscircle.com/old-stock-a-refugee-love-story-a-contemporary-jewish-folktale-superbly-performed/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 15:59:00 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11450 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 …Continue reading →

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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.

Based on events from the story of her paternal family, author Hannah Moscovitch and her team of actors and musicians, have created an event that feels like a contemporary Jewish folktale about 20th Century immigration, where Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof is just around the corner. However it is much less amusing and its limited budget produces a much less spectacular setting. It does however include tragedy and humor. It is about falling in love, about the trauma of pogroms which keep surging up in the character’s memories as their hardships in the new world send them back to the horrors of their past in Europe: Pogroms, massacres, anti-Semitism, persecution, terror and poverty. . This textual crisscrossing was important to follow because it constructed the totality of an  immigrant conscience that had to be understood. It comes to a head when Ben Caplan  transforms himself into a lively dancer, and passionate narrator as well as  a mischievous biblical scholar who rereads the Torah and revels in sexual vocabulary, the orality of the sacred texts (The Truth Doesn’t live in a Book) that are constantly being reinterpreted. Is this text a lie or isn’t it?  We aren’t really sure.  He dances and hollers and sings his heart out and then suddenly becomes a Kantor singing a most moving Kaddish (prayer for the dead and for universal peace) in the midst of all these experiences that produced moments of apparent playfulness. The whole theatre became a synagogue and you could hear a pin drop.

Chris Weatherstone, a fine musician (Woodwinds) was also Chaim, the young 19 year old who falls in love with Chaya (Mary Fey Coady) when they arrive in Halifax. She lost her first husband and child in Russia when they were forced to emigrate from Romania. The meeting of these two characters creates a personal drama that allowed the show to delve into more personal experiences. The romantic dreaming of young Chaim in contrast to the laconic tough minded dialogue that defined the more experienced, pragmatic and grieving Chaya provided wonderful tension between the two and avoided gushy sentimentality that would never fit in this situation. She took a long time to fall in love because she was haunted by the memories of her first love. Their courtship was funny, touching, the arrival of the baby brought out much anguish.  It all wrung true to the point that some of the show had the feeling of docu- theatre. The dynamics of this couple was beautifully performed and the actors, barely moving, used their facial expressions, their gestures and their voices to communicate all the nuances of emotion that defined their existence.

At times the musicians, the collective voices and with Ben Caplan hollering above them all into his microphone (Plough the Shit) created an almost unbearable cacophony which drowned out the words and gave one the impression they had all gone mad on stage. The noise of these moments even hurt the eardrums with the megaphones roaring, the mikes turned up and all the instruments playing against each other. However, the pain was precisely that, clearly the expression of collective rage against all human stupidity that made people’s  lives unbearable. For example, the tons of administration in the new world, the antisemitism and all the difficulties in their current lives that sent the immigrants back to memories of violence and cruelty they experienced in their countries of origin.

What is certainly true is the powerful way memory is represented as the human impulse that gives all the strength to this show. They clearly wanted us to understand that no immigrant is ever completely wiped clean of his or her past, especially at an unconscious level.  Accepting that makes these human relations much easier, something that is  extremely  important given all that is taking place in the world now.

Old Stock plays until July 15 in the studio of the NAC. 

Written by Hannah Moscovitch

Directed by Christian Berry

Performed by Ben Caplan

Chris Weatherstone (Chaim, clarinet )

Mary Fay Coady (Chaya, violin)

Graham Scott (Keyboard , Accordion)

Jamie Kronick (Percussion)

Set design: Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry, Andrew  Cull

Coproduced by 2b Theatre Company and the NAC English Theatre

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Avignon: Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen. Das Leben des Herrn de Molière http://capitalcriticscircle.com/avignon-die-kabale-der-scheinheiligen-das-leben-des-herrn-de-molire/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 13:14:00 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11444 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 …Continue reading →

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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.

 

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

Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen  Photo:  Christian Raynaud De Lage.

Bulgakov’s novel is often interpreted as an autobiographical metaphor, the writer’s attempt to explain his relationship with the state, and his life of  internal exile, when he lost all means of income, possibilities to work or publish any of his writing. The legend has it: Stalin took a special pleasure in taming  the author. By making a personal phone-call to Bulgakov, he promised him freedom of exile – so he would be issued his foreign passport and  a visa to finally leave Russia – if the writer behaved. The result was Bulgakov’s attempt to write a dramatic biography of Stalin’s revolutionary career, a still-born play of his literary genius, conceived under the pressure of survival.

All this information, distorted and fragmented, shattered and over-extended by many other inter-textual references, including Racine’s Phaedra and Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore, among others, make the kaleidoscopic landscape of Castorf’s dramatic narrative, visually reflected in a similarly kaleidoscopic staging.

Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen  is presented in Avignon’s Parc des expositions, a famous venue in the region where  corporate events, inaugurations, theatre and trade shows, artistic and commercial exhibition are organized.  This  major venue presents  a circular arena/exhibition area of  27 500 square meters, all made fully available for Castorf’s enterprise. The audience is located in a frontal arrangement with three different pavilions or stations  included in the staging.  The movement of the stations is reminiscent of the popular French street theatre just before Molière’s time, its mode of production (the flourishing of small touring companies) and its favorite genres, such as farce and satire, to which Molière was also the rightful heir. Each station presents a different location: the first one is the home of Molière that is also his theatre, a two-story theatrical platform/wagon that transforms into a stage, a bedroom, and a tavern. The second one is the King’s alcove with an enormous bed inside it, which will later turn into the death-bed for Molière himself. The last one is a sitting room, serving as the off-stage place for actors to rest, or for the King’s adversaries to plot against Molière and his company. The rest of this enormous facility takes on many other fictional locales, as envisioned by the director and his designers.

The major device of this staging is the use of a  live-camera that follows actors onto off-stage spaces and inside the stations, with the close-ups of their faces projected on a large screen. This famous device – known yet in the traditions of the Czech Laterna magika, with the actors jumping off screens on stage interacting with their own filmed images projected onto the screen –  is Castorf’s special signature/style. In Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen  the filmed and the enacted scenes are intertwined, which creates an effect of alienation and vertigo. At times, the action fully moves onto the screen: we see actors working in the far-off spaces of this showground and at the same time watch them life-streamed. The effect of temporal simultaneity – another Castorf’s famous device – is produced by our being able to observe the work of the camera-crew, the actors enacting the scene off stage, and its projection streamed centre-stage at the same time. Occasionally, Castorf makes the actors on stage interact with the audience and with other characters/actors projected on screen, all at the same time, as moving through a certain scene, staying in character.

However, what was extremely innovative a decade ago, today reads as a somewhat tired device. Perhaps, if the balance between the video and live acting was made a little more even, which does happen in the second part of this show, the audience would stay as spellbound as it used to be with Castorf’s previous productions.

The acting, however, is simply superb. Switching between German, French and English, the performers keep their characters intact. A demanding play, with lots of physical comedy, numerous improvisations, character changes, and stage distances the actors must cover in seconds by running across this massive space, all this adds to the complex psychological nuances the performers must play, when it comes to enacting Bulgakov’s intricate characters.

The sense of theatricality – life on stage in the spotlight, under the surveillance of cameras and spectators’ watchful eye – reigns over Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen.  Indeed, what else can be there for an artist, whose life and work have become a personal interest of his monarch. The artist and the state is one of the most pertinent themes of  Russian literature. In Castorf’s performative reimagining, it comes fully alive through the mastery of dramaturgical deconstruction and through the brilliance of theatrical technology, which brings theatre’s oldest machinery into a  creative dialogue with its newest forms. Vive Molière! Vive le Théâtre!

 

In German with French subtitles

With Jeanne Balibar, Jean-Damien Barbin, Frank Büttner, Jean Chaize, Brigitte Cuvelier,

Georg Friedrich, Patrick Güldenberg, Sir Henry, Hanna Hilsdorf, Rocco Mylord, Sophie Rois, Lars Rudolph, Alexander Scheer, Daniel Zillmann

 

 

July 8 -13, 2017

PARC DES EXPOSITIONS – AVIGNON

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Avignon: Memories of Sarajevo and Dans les Ruines d’Athènes. Symphonies of Pain, part 5. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/avignon-memories-of-sarajevo-and-dans-les-ruines-dathnes-symphonies-of-pain-part-5/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 19:57:00 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11436 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   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, …Continue reading →

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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.

Based on the company’s extensive research on  recent historical events, archives, eye-witness accounts, and extensive interviews with the survivors of the Sarajevo siege, Memories of Sarajevo  offers a re-thinking of documentary theatre. The stage presents a two-story structure with the Western and Balkan politicians appearing on its upper level and the people of Sarajevo on the lower one. The politicians are slightly caricaturized, as they serve as the examples of the company’s political irony. Although their rhetorical style is reflective of the historical events of the early 90s,  Brechtian alienation brings about ironic commentary by Le Birgit Ensemble  on the fruitfulness or logic of their actions. At the end, it did take  Bill Clinton to intervene in European politics, to finally stop the Sarajevo massacre.

The people of Sarajevo are the victims. But unlike some documentary theatre that forces emotion through horror and sentimentality, Le Birgit Ensemble remains sombre and tactful in their portrayal of the siege. The directors acknowledge that the history they present is not fully “theirs”, and hence they must be careful in making political statements and choosing artistic tools. In this aspect, Memories of Sarajevo  is truly an ensemble piece, with each performer taking on many roles, actively participating in making and re-making the stage, as the action unfolds through the whole siege.

There are songs and stories, there is love and daily danger, there is hope and despair. Occasionally, the company uses black-white video projections to show either a historical footage of the Balkan war or the Avignon audiences, who become implicated  in this history  by the sheer fact of attending this theatre performance.

The figure of Europe and the myth of its creation appears  as an overarching symbol. Invisible to the people of Sarajevo, the presence of Europe is made significant for the overall meaning of this play. Europe appears here as a mother figure. Several times, she  crosses the stage and with her  ritual  singing and movements, she laments the disastrous state of her children.   She attempts to offer them her protection but she is only a goddess, a  myth, she cannot turn back the course of the peoples’ history.

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In Dans les ruines d’Athènes Le Birgit ensemble continues its historical and political exploration and artistic experiments. Turning now to making fun of popular television and social media that came to define the culture of the early 2000s, they create  a political satire of today’s Europe, struggling to define its identity and resolve its economic troubles in the tenets of new liberalism.

On the two-tier stage, made to resemble both a TV studio and a Corinthian temple,  a Greek reality TV show takes place. Six participants, all named after famous characters of the Greek tragic canon, from Medea to Orestes, are invited to take place in the “Parthenon Story”, to win a chance to have  their debts paid. The happy participants are sent off-stage, to their new home, for us to observe their actions. Live cameras  off stage film the characters, as the audience observes their  everyday struggles. The two happy hosts prompt spectators to use their mobile phones, to illuminate or save their favorite participants, to suggest  how the candidates  might improve their lives, and even to give the candidates donations.

The festive atmosphere is undercut by the action that takes place above the TV Studio – the theatre stage. There, the “Corinthian Gods,” such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, are called upon  to make difficult decisions such as to help Greece fight  its failing economy.  The action follows the historical events of 2008-2015, the dialogue is borrowed  from the politicians’ speeches and actions. The course of history takes place.

On the lower level where  the people of Athens are located, the action becomes more intense. As the reality show unfolds, the participants’ living  conditions deteriorate. First, they lose electricity, then air-conditioning, then water. Some of them lose their minds and so on.  Guy Debord’s metaphor, a society of spectacle – a society where everything is put on for the consumer’s pleasure  – comes to life.

The figure of Europe intervenes in these events as well.  This time, however, she is more successful. As she appears among the TV show participants, she instigates them to take action, to break away from the patronizing and controlling gaze of the TV cameras as they are  identified with the role governments play in the lives of ordinary people.

The ending of the  play is hopeful. Greece liberates itself from the surveying power of the European Union, the participants of the reality TV show break away. Europe sings a beautiful Greek song and the ritual of community-making takes place.

As the show reaches its final moments, the make-believe  reality of this theatre/TV show is revealed, the politicians and TV hosts are thrown back under the cameras, the spectators are offered drinks, and everybody comes together in the cheering gesture of creating and sharing a new community of hope.

Although slightly naive in their political hopes and conclusions, here Le Birgit ensemble builds on the theatre’s potential to bring people together through the power of intellect and emotional affect. It is difficult not to fall under the charm  of this hopeful gesture. We cheer, we laugh, we sing. We also hope that in the times of Brexists and Donald Trumps, the faith and the vigour of this new generation will indeed help resist the rising  darkness of this new age.

In French

With Éléonore Arnaud, Lou Chauvain, Pauline Deshons, Pierre Duprat, Anna Fournier, Kevin Garnichat, Lazare Herson-Macarel, Timothée Lepeltier, Élise Lhomeau, Antoine Louvard, Estelle Meyer, Morgane Nairaud, Loïc Riewer, Marie Sambourg

July 9 -11, 2017

GYMNASE PAUL GIÉRA

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Avignon. Antigone. The Symphonies of Pain part 3. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/avignon-antigone-symphonies-pain-part-3/ Tue, 11 Jul 2017 14:26:48 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11413 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 …Continue reading →

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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.

Inspired by the enormous  performance  potential of the Palais des papes, Satoshi Miyagi explores the  vertical as well as  the horizontal dimension of that theatrical  space. His scenographer Junpei Kiz has turned the stage into a magnificent pool of water, representing the Acheron, the river that divides the world of the  living from the world of the dead. Enormous stones from  Japan’s own river of death, the Sanzu, create a visual contrast to the stillness of the water, literally and metaphorically transforming Antigone’s fictional space of sand and desert into that of water and death. These images are also borrowed from the burial rituals of  Buddhist monks. The presence of the chorus frames this staging where the  singers represent the world of the dead, or senka in Japanese.

Upon entering the theatre, we see white figures slowly crossing over  the water. They carry candles that stand for the souls of the dead thus suggesting that this Antigone is set in the realm of the  dead not the living. Satoshi Miyagi builds further on this association by using the  devices of the wayang kulit,  Indonesian shadow theatre, to evoke Sophocles’ characters, who,  in this Japanese staging, become larger than life. Miyagi  enlarges the actors’ bodies by turning them into their own shadows, projected on the  walls of the Palais des papes. He also manipulates their voices by having the chorus leader speak the actors’ lines.  This strategy not only  creates  a distancing effect  but by separating the actors’ bodies from their voices, Miyagi also emphasizes the underlying condition of today’s universe: the world in which peoples’ egotistical  desires take over the needs of the community,  a world  forever disconnected from the body  and where  personal experience  undermines one’s  sense of unity and belonging. Hence, by mixing the foundational principles of Greek tragedy, Japanese theatre and Indonesian shadow play, Miyagi negotiates the boundaries of intercultural encounter and creates a new theatrical universe of globalized experiences.

The final scene,  invented specifically for this performance, shows  all  living beings leaving for the realm of Hades, including   Creon and Tiresias. The sense of distance is complete as the actors take off their wigs and join the chorus of senka beings, the image that reminds us of our mortality, the condition that makes all living creatures equal.

In Japanese with French subtitles

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