Editorial

Stéphane Braunschweig

 

A theatre which is open to the world, at the crossroads between the different generations. This is the dream I forged on my arrival at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. This same spirit has provided the foundation for the second season.

...Brexit, Donald Trump’s America, and the proliferation of ever more inward-looking, closed-off forms of discourse in France. In response to the influx of refugees and despair at all levels of society, culture must, more than ever, play its part in breaking down the barriers created by our own preconceptions and fears, those of xenophobia and nationalisms. It is vital that culture, and theatre in particular, constitutes a space which is open to different voices, forms of exchange and transmission. Only then will we feel that the same questions are shared by us all. The same worries and hopes, but seen from different points of view.

This season we will be welcoming artists from not only from Italy and Great Britain, but also from Australia, Russia, Brazil and Vietnam. The different shows will take us on a journey from Novossibirsk to the depths of the Amazon. Each show sets up the possibility of an “encounter” of the kind we will be experiencing in Simon McBurney’s The Encounter, the emblematic title of a breathtaking plunge into the depths of sound, brought to us by this veritable poet of the stage.

It is no mere coincidence that two of our associate artists have decided, through the paths of fiction, to follow the lives of those in exile - “migrants”, as we say in today’s world - and the torn apart lives they lead, caught between the dream of one day returning home and that of managing to piece together an existence elsewhere. Ulysses and Penelope will serve as a guide to Christiane Jatahy in her wholly contemporary Odyssey. Meanwhile, Caroline Guiela Nguyen will be using the timeless setting of a Vietnamese restaurant to conjure up yesterday’s Saigon in today’s France.

Another encounter will also be taking place between Timofeï Kouliabine’s production of the Three Sisters performed in Russian sign language and its rewriting by the Australian director, Simon Stone (our third associate artist). These two young, outstanding directors will be confronting their visions of what is undoubtedly Chekhov’s most contemporary work, and its examination of youth and its inexorable search to find meaning in the present.

Alongside Kouliabine, Stone, Guiela Nguyen, and Jatahy will be a whole host of others. Julien Gosselin will be reviving Les Particules élémentaires, based on the work by Houellebecq. Cyril Teste will be giving us his vision of the cult film Festen, on the fringes between theatre and cinema. Anne-Cécile Vandalem and Lucia Calmaro will be taking the death of a mother as starting point for their own writing in, respectively, Tristesses and La Vita ferma, The former, beneath its exterior of a nordic thriller, is a fable about the rise of populism of different kinds. The latter, meanwhile, is a deeply moving, biting voyage in the company of the ghosts of those no longer with us. With their immense sensibility and singularity, a whole new generation of artists will be taking possession of the Odeon and Berthier stages. Their poetic, lucid, and often humorous standpoints will be shedding light upon the complexity of our world and modes of existence.

By the same token, one of the virtues of the great writers of the past is the way their writing continues to speak volumes to us. The mirror they hold up to us enables us to view our own chaotic era, and to find our way. Célie Pauthe and Ludovic Lagarde, both familiar with the world of contemporary writing, have turned towards the classics: Racine (Bérénice) and Molière (The Miser) - authors who have never stopped questioning, through tragedy or comedy, the blind passions at work at the heart of human affairs...

Macbeth sees me returning to Shakespeare, after all these years. Events on the international political scene have steered me, with urgency, in his direction. For me, these high and mighty figures, either reeling drunk on their own power or intent on obtaining it at all costs, the madness and absurdity that ensues, and the way world power is left hanging in the balance, evokes the image of this ghostly landscape. A battlefield given over to witches and inner demons. The Scottish play, then, whose name we dare not mention for fear of bad luck, and in which Shakespeare has so expertly woven the strands of libido, power and crime into one sleepless night.

On the night, let’s keep our eyes wide open!