Thursday, 11 May 2017

Evocative Dramaturgy: Théâtre Volière (London) and La Soupe Compagnie (Strasbourg)@ The Fringe

Pierrot Lunaire revisited, with gothic puppetry and drone noise, in a new Anglo-French collaboration.

EVOCATION, 20:25, 
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH, 5-26 Aug 

Shocking and tender, erotic and cruel, this new treatment of Giraud's symbolist classic relocates Pierrot Lunaire to fin de siècle Brighton. Performance poetry and contemporary puppetry with an original score.  A Théâtre Volière (London) and La Soupe Compagnie (Strasbourg) collaboration, performed by Audrey L'Ebrellec.  Eric Domenicone (Director), Mick Wood (Concept, Translations), Yseult Welschinger (Puppetry, Design), and Antoine Arlot (Music).

What was the inspiration for this performance?

A fascination with Pierrot as a kind of fin de siècle Ziggy Stardust figure, whose appeal had the scope to surpass socio-economic, linguistic and cultural boundaries, earning him enormous popularity throughout Europe.  In particular, an interest in Albert Giraud’s cycle of poems Pierrot Lunaire.  

Schoenberg’s German translation is already well known, but without an English translation of the same calibre, it’s hard for English speakers to understand the popularity Pierrot once enjoyed, or to appreciate the modern relevance of this transgressive outsider who revels in subverting the established order.  We fell in love with Pierrot Lunaire and wanted to reintroduce him to Edinburgh audiences in all his shocking, erotic and wickedly playful glory!

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes, we think so!  It may be one of the oldest ways of discussing ideas among a large number of people, but its still one of the best.  Face to face communication obviously has the advantage of enabling physical and vocal means of expression to play their role, but there’s also just a special kind of magic that takes place between performers and a live audience that can’t be replaced.  

Of course, the word ‘performance’ also implies a degree of story telling, as opposed to a simple discussion or lecture.  In the context of telling a story, its possible to raise subjects that might otherwise be met with a knee jerk reaction, in a much more subtle way, thereby encouraging a more open and thoughtful response. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

We think it started when we were children and we enjoyed imaging ourselves in different places and as different people, but our interest went beyond just escaping into our own individual fantasy worlds.  We wanted to communicate that experience, and how we felt about it, to other people, and to sense their response in return, which is where the ‘making performance’ comes into it.  

I think, fundamentally, we want to make performance because of a basic need to reach out
occasionally from our own exploration of life as individuals, and to experience a sense of connection with other people on the same human journey as us.  Its that moment of connection between the writer, the director, the performer and ultimately the audience that makes theatre such a particularly special and important part of being human.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Pierrot comes originally from Italy, but travelled to France, England and all around Europe.  He was written about in French by a Belgian poet whose words were then translated by a German composer…  With this well-travelled history in mind, we felt we should collaborate with a French company and a bi-lingual actress to really get to the essence of Pierrot Lunaire!  We also wanted to combine actor-centred performance with puppetry in order to reflect Pierrot’s background in carnival and popular street theatre.  

We’re very lucky that both companies have been able to really throw themselves into this collaboration; from travelling and working between both countries, to learning about each others languages, each others culture and even each others politics!  We’ve stayed in each others houses, cooked traditional national dishes for each other, watered it all down with each others wine and beer, and laughed (a lot!) over some of the very rude bits in the poetry that we English completely missed!  

Its amazing how embarrassed a 47 year old English woman can feel, when asking a French man exactly why he finds a reference to a particular action with a violin quite so funny…  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Normally we tend to produce slightly more conventional, text-based historical dramas, but to the extent that Evocation is an interrogation of cultural history, it is thematically similar to much of our other work.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We always start by wanting to entertain.  It’s the most important thing!  If the audience is bored, we’re not going to engage them with anything, however interesting and well-meaning.  After that, we would like them to be surprised by the Pierrot Lunaire they meet and to be inspired and invigorated by his irreverence.  It would be great if the show made people want to learn more about him and perhaps about the decadent movement itself.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We took an early decision to perform all the poetry entirely in English.  However beautiful the original French, it just wasn’t going to help us to re-introduce Pierrot Lunaire to an English speaking audience.  We wanted to break away from the idea of Pierrot as a pretty, dainty, romantic character, and encourage audiences to get down and dirty with this decadent rebellious anti-hero.  

The language of the translations, the industrial drone noise and the carnivalesque puppetry are all used to support this experience.

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