Last days in the City of the Popes: two South African dance performances, two Shakespeares and two Lebanese plays… For a constellation of impressions.
South African density
Place, finally, at Sacrifice of Dada Masilo, postponed twice due to pandemic hazards. Between the 74e and the 76e edition of the festival, the expectation of the South African artist has fallen a little, naturally, the show having since toured, with a moderately favorable critical rumor. A rumor confirmed in the courtyard of the Lycée Saint-Joseph. Dada Masilo continues with this piece its reinterpretation of the classics (the sacrifice at the heart of Rite of Spring in this case), which she mixes with contemporary and African choreography. Surrounded by nine dancers on stage, supported by three instrumentalists and a singer at court, the elegant lady, shirtless and shaved head, lacked breath, juxtaposing brief sequences bombastic with lyric-jazzy music with frequent but too brutal rhythmic variations , moderately successful humorous winks, and a series of states – combativeness, rage and abdication – marked, but arousing little empathy. The fault, perhaps, with a little worked dramaturgy; the fault, perhaps also, with an imbalance between the imposing presence of the international star, excessively singled out, and the rest of its excellent troop, accessorized. Be that as it may, boredom lurked and the show seemed like two hours.
Conversely, in the Mineral Court, Via Injabulo of the company Via Katlehong Dance and its guest choreographers, the Portuguese Marco da Silva Ferreira and the French Amala Dianor, seduced by the panache of its eight performers, its heady electro music and its mix of South African dances: from pantsula to gumboot . A festive show, split into two parts. The first was more successful than the second. There was this young dancer, at the heart of the choreography, astounding with self-mockery, precision and tonicity who reminded us, in turn, of a sated hen, a ferocious warrior and a frenzied clubber. Then there were these skeletons, with their wide eyes and their frantic, formidable steps. There was, also and above all, this incredible energy that circulated in the public; we regretted that the stands did not turn into a vast dance floor. The second sequence, on the other hand, where the performers reappeared with bulky coolers (to represent street vendors?) left you speechless. Because of his disjointed group choreographies and the vague meaning of these performances, we preferred to forget him to set off again in the Avignon night with the buzzing joy of the opening part.
Shakespeare, seen and heard
On either side of the Alps: two Shakespeares, two atmospheres. First, we discovered a Storm, directed by the Italian Alessandro Serra. Then a Richard II, designed by Frenchman Christophe Rauck. The first was a spectacle of images and poetry. The second a theater of voices and meanings. To chase The Storm of Alessandro Serra, it was preferable to have a good knowledge of the Elizabethan repertoire; in the theatre, often, the sur-titling is exhausting and the choice between the staging and the meaning of the text is essential. The latter tells how Prospero, deposed Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda, find themselves confronted with their traitors – and therefore with moral dilemmas – on an island lost in the Mediterranean after a shipwreck. Magic (black), conspiracies (hoarded), love (predestined) and forgiveness (complicated) are at the heart of this piece, all in all quite whimsical. We felt Alessandro Serra a bit encumbered by the Shakespearian verb (perhaps he could have shortened the piece, since he allows himself allusions to Tina Turner and other liberties?). Whatever. The beauty of the show took place under the supertitled screen, in front of sublime scenes: a shipwreck scene with a suspended veil, a magnificently choreographed banquet, a final scene with stunning (and yet extremely simple) light effects and actors who move like puppets… It’s a coldly beautiful theater that moved us little by the incarnation of its characters, but nevertheless impressed us a lot with its pictorial inspiration.
Christophe Rauck’s proposal was radically different. Richard II is a historical play by Shakespeare with little production compared to the others; some claim that its plot is too convoluted, its characters too numerous, its theatrical scope less than the indestructible Richard III… The manager of the Amandiers proved the opposite. This one is of an immense poetic richness and is devoured like a soap opera, type Game Of Thrones. Acknowledge to Christophe Rauck the merit of a pleasant textual clarity. Let us recognize in him a sense of narrative rhythm. Let us recognize him, finally, a beautiful complicity with his main actor, Micha Lescot. However, over these approximately three and a half hours, we were missing something; the identity of a real staging (despite beautiful maritime projections…), slightly more creative sets and costumes and more breath. Paradoxically, the excellent Micha Lescot accentuates these faults. His playing partners cultivated stiffness (starting with the very mineral Éric Challier, in the costume of Henry Bolingbroke, future Henry IV). With his singsong voice and delicate timbre, Micha Lescot was a king who constantly oscillated – between ugliness and charisma, cowardice and courage, disgust and the empathy he aroused. It was interesting to see, but to cultivate these differences too much, the latter was a bit alone on set… To this creation, we definitely preferred the fiery Henry VI ridden by the same Christophe Rauck at Les Amandiers with students from the École du Nord, discovered last fall.
Seen from the outside, it’s quite simple, Hanane Hajj Ali is a woman in her fifties who does her daily jogging in the streets of Beirut to fight against osteoporosis. She is alone on stage, sneakers on her feet. Seen from the inside, it’s a little more complicated, of course, since Hanane Hajj Ali takes advantage of the race to give free rein to her thoughts. We discover her tossed about by ambivalent feelings and jostled by all-out desires, like everyone else… With one difference. The artist is obsessed with Medea. A few years ago, she had the misfortune to accompany her seven-year-old son suffering from cancer. The poor boy was writhing in pain, she wanted to end his suffering. Hanane Hajj Ali, whom we discovered on stage, is an eminent figure on the current Lebanese scene. Although imperfect, his show Jogging was endearing, courageous and very funny at times. At her heart, there was a reflection on the figure of Medea therefore (which she understood with the illness of her child), where two sordid miscellaneous facts collide (women who could be current Medea), but also reflections on Lebanon, the city of Beirut, Euripides… Too many impressions, too many ideas, too many leads, too many narrative threads. The strength of Hanane Hajj Ali’s words, however, perhaps deserved fewer ideas and more precision.
Second part of a trilogy on love, When my mother used to tell chronicles the tragic family story of Lebanese dancer and choreographer Ali Chahrour. It is about a mother (the artist’s aunt) who looked for her son who had been missing in Syria since 2013. It is about another mother, who fought to protect a son destined for martyrdom (all two present on the board). So many terrible stories, and terribly current, declaimed, sung and set to music. On the representation side, we nevertheless regretted a lack of distancing of the artist with his family pain whose gestures, words and dances bent under a pathos perhaps (still) too monolithic. On the musical side, on the other hand, the inventiveness of the duo Two or The Dragon, led by Ali Hout and Abed Kobeissy, delighted us. In particular, the magnificent sounds of an electrified houd, triturated by an impressive pedalboard, amalgamating traditional Lebanese music with hints of rock and frank noise accents. That evening, our last in the city of the Popes, we opened our ears to close our eyes.
Avignon Festival, until July 26
The sacrificeby Dada Masilo, on 5 November at the Théâtre des Salins in Martigues, from 15 to 17 November at the Bonlieu national stage in Annecy, on 19 November at the Onde Théâtre Center d’Art de Vélizy-Villacoublay in Vélizy-Villacoublay, on 1er and December 2 at La Villette in Paris, December 13 at the Théâtre de Suresnes Jean Vilar in Suresnes, December 15 and 16 at the Théâtre de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, January 16 at Équilibre-Nuithonie in Villars-sur-Glâne, on January 25 and 28 at the Théâtre de Caen in Caen
The Stormdirected by Alessandro Serra, April 25, 2023 MA national stage – Pays de Montbéliard in Montbéliard
Richard IIdirected by Christophe Rauck, from September 20 to October 15 at the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers in Nanterre, on October 20 and 21 at the Onde Théâtre Center d’Art de Vélizy-Villacoublay in Vélizy-Villacoublay, on November 8 at the Foirail Theater season in Pau