Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, Paris, France
Scenes Ouvertes à L’Insolite

covered by artist Angie Eng
Théâtre de la Marionnette
Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, Paris, France
15-25 May 2008

In a country rich with history, how does one approach innovation? Experimental Tradition seems to be all too common in the Art Festival de Paris. For three weeks in May, Le Théâtre de la Marionnette presented ‘Scènes Ouvertes à L’insolite’ (Open Stage For The Unusual) This umbrella program of cross-genre theatre included: theatre of manipulated objects, puppetry, video, shadow play, circus, spoken word, magic show, contemporary dance/movement, actors, tap dancers, improvisational music, poets, ‘clowns’, mimes, did I forget anyone, anything? From the description of sub-genres the public is immediately informed to not expect the Muppet show. The closest might be Daisy/Violet, the ½ human ½ puppet Siamese twin strippers of “Me Too, A Sideshow,” a performance ode to “Freaks” that merges the roles of object and manipulator.

What we do realize after viewing a few performances, in my case 7 of the 14 presentations, is each collective remains faithful to the exploration of reality through the discovery of the make-believe. In other words, facing death by rebirth. As with a magic show, suspense is the key emotion to unravel the cycle of personal development. Like the art student exploring a canvas by copying the masters, the actor/manipulator reveals how the mind confronts existence. In “Desirée,” we are thrown into the cellar with a suffering abused girl who survives by recreating a dialogue between self, object and an imaginary persona. In coping with fear she displaces all emotion into gestural scenarios. Here is a production that presents ‘playing dolls’’ in a most dramatic, intense one-person drama, grâce à the performance of Coco Bernardis. And an honorable mention to the improvisational musician, Antoine Arlot who truly played visual sound.

“Mr. H” (an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) is also a whirlwind in connecting the self with its multiple attempts and failures to illustrate life is a process. Visually dazzling as if watching a circus on acid, the three actors and one puppet move on, off, behind, sideways while playing tap dancing apes, reproducing via overhead projector “Journey to the Center of the Earth” mad scientist, syncing lights and alarms à la Richard Foreman, mocking Hollywood shadow dance and borrowing Film Noir in their mystic hysterics. Well, ‘I-can’t-remember-how-it-ended-but-I-liked-it-anyway’ was my reaction. It takes courage to cross the border.

I’ve worked 15 years with experimental technology under the label of ‘New Technology’, ‘New Media’, ‘Interactive Performance’ and/or ‘Experimental Video’. 50% of the time the questions were geared toward equipment brands and software development in-progress. Questions of poetry and content were non-existent. In “Me Too: A Sideshow,” the story is about a baby puppet recounting his Siamese twin mother who reminisces of a time in a caravan by way of a video clip. (Did you catch that hall of mirrors?) Here, cinema is used as a dimension that could only be expressed by a window of moving images. (And nobody would ask how many lumens was the projector nor the name of the digital effects applied on the video!) Last month on the outskirts of Paris, I found myself every Sunday at the Théâtre de la Cité relearning the lesson on how marketing can jet your audience to a glacier mountain when the meeting point was in the Sahara. Under the heading of “Marionnettes” aesthetic parallels provided the base to the limitless use of tools and definition of ‘spectacle’.

In Encore des Changements a poet crawls on the floor like a handicapped child reaching for a cord. Video projection is used to recite words projected on her arm as cinematic tree silhouettes dance inside the painter’s paint. At one point she fondles a huge mass of cotton like a Fluxus inspired media artist dancing with paper (Jessica Higgins in “North Water Song”). It’s so sensual you want this moment of simplicity that fulfills an urge to last longer. Spirituality and sensuality make a good couple. In the end as in the beginning and middle of the piece, a combination of techniques is used to examine the fragility of existence. The narrative arch seemed to be underdeveloped. Be that as it may, I still look forward to the next attempt.

Incorporating cinema or merging forms effectively is no easy feat. However, the Festival Scènes Ouvertes à L’insolite’ gave me hope again. Breaking rules is necessary in experimentation, however there is a certain tradition that holds true- Start with a foundation and voyage to the ephemeral can bring fruitful results.

Angie Eng, Paris

#permalink posted by Angie Eng: 6/05/08 10:16:00 AM


Get More Involved: Donate Now | Announcements | Subscribe | About Us | Contact Us