In Rennes, the National Theater of Brittany Festival questions normality

Scott Price, Simon Laherty and Sarah Mainwaring in “The Shadow Whose Prey The Hunter Becomes”, directed by Bruce Gladwin, in Zurich, Back to Back Theatre, in September 2022.

The opening of the Festival of the Théâtre national de Bretagne, in Rennes, took place in these unstable zones where the theater summons singular presences more than it serves the clicism of characters and fictions. A stimulating line from which the twenty shows scheduled until November 25 should not deviate.

Iconic kick-off with The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, a show by Bruce Gladwin, who has directed Back to Back in Australia since 1999, a company often awarded for the quality of its projects. The artist works with actors with disabilities. Only three of them occupy the immense stage of the Vilar room. A moving trio whose clumsy bodies and laborious words nevertheless take over the scale of the stage.

Pushing their decor in front of them (chairs and a gigantic white desk), Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price develop a sort of conference, not devoid of humor, on the contours and contents of what makes (or not) the normality. They talk about themselves, of course, but above all they talk about us and what awaits us with the irruption, into our lives, of artificial intelligence whose disembodied voice is heard. Are we not in turn (they suggest) going to become the handicapped in a society where the control of algorithms will disrupt the balance of humans? Beyond the disturbance, one thing is obvious: these actors, who have difficulty speaking and moving with difficulty, need time to express their thoughts. But this thought (and therefore this consciousness) is indeed there. The battle fought in his name is heartbreaking.

Trauma and repair

Much less gripping, Extra Life, the creation of Gisèle Vienne, sits halfway between heaviness and depression. Some will see this as proof that the spectacle acts on perceptions. Nevertheless: his subject (the reunion after a night of celebration of a brother and a sister who had been as children) develops outside and in spite of the public.

The board is divided into interior and exterior. The interior of a car is the place of realism, even if listening to a radio broadcast evokes the arrival of extraterrestrials. Illuminated by headlights, a wasteland where movements become unrealized under the action of the sublime lights designed by Yves Godin.

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When they leave the car to move, in slow motion, in the fog that covers the ground, the brother (Theo Livesey) and the sister (Adèle Haenel) also abandon everyday life to enter a mental space where, through contortions, gestural pantomimes, elliptical remarks, cries, tears or laughter, they relive the drama of which they were the victims. Enclosed in the green nets of lasers which draw open or closed perspectives, a creature (Katia Petrowick) joins them. Probably an alien. Or a hybrid being who would tell the couple about their past and their future, their trauma and their repair. All hypotheses are allowed, which is good. But what is less so is the inanity that the representation sometimes comes dangerously close to.

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