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théâtre national de nice

Saison 2018-19

théâtre national de nice

[ Co-production ]

centaures, quand nous étions enfants


with Camille & Manolo, Indra [Spanish pure bred] and Gaïa [Friesian] with the voices of Elsa Scholler, Timeo Bonnano, Lua Gaggini, Laurent Schefer, Christiane Suter, Claude Thébert assistant director Mariama Sylla equestrian choreography Camille & Manolo lighting Jean-Marc Serre sound Nicolas Lespagnol-Rizzi photography Martin Dutasta executive production Théâtre Gymnase - Bernardines - Marseille co-production Théâtre Am Stram Gram - Genève, Théâtre du Centaure - Marseille, ExtraPôle Région SUD, Théâtres en Dracénie - stage approved for dancing - Pôle régional de développement culturel, Théâtre National de Nice - CDN Nice Côte d’Azur. Text published by Editions La Joie de lire, in the collection La Joie d'agir in partnership with the Théâtre Am Stram Gram – Genève.

With their magnificent stallions, the famous circus-performing couple Camille and Manolo tell the tale of a wonderful universe of horses and men. After much dreaming, they have revived the myth of the centaur, a children’s fantasy that has taken a foremost place in their lives. From childhood to romantic encounters, from utopia to reality, here is the magical story of a far-from-ordinary couple and the creatures that are like an extension of themselves.
The power of these animals is delicately expressed in this intimate relationship where love, unity and understanding reign. Where does the horse end and where does the human begin? A rare, touching and loving synergy with horses!

When Fabrice Melquit’s theatre meets equestrian art, we live a sublime moment in the company of centaurs!

« The rhythm of the hooves, the frothing muzzles, the gleaming haunches, the pungent smell… this is not the stuff of stunts, but elements that accentuate the physical impact and sensuality of words. »
Le Monde

« The uniqueness of the Théâtre du Centaure has nothing left to prove. In the face of the barbarity we see in the real world, the sheer, wild beauty of the centaurs has an exceptionally powerful impact. »


Interview Fabrice Melquiot

Interview by Caroline Audibert

How did you create this show, this window on the private world of the two legendary riders, Camille and Manolo from Marseille’s Théâtre du Centaure?

I have wanted for quite some time now to tell their story, which I thought was powerful and quite unique. I wanted to take their life stories and drop them into a fragmented narrative, a puzzle that would conjure up some of the events that have been instrumental in forging their identity: aspirations, landscapes, encounters…. I spoke at length with Camille and Manolo and garnered a lot of written material from our meetings at the Théâtre du Centaure. I also asked them to choose some of their own personal memorabilia: sketches, photos, notebooks….

Is this a biographical story, a dive into mythology, a pure equestrian show?

Even if the sources are biographical and the choreography based on real events, the show comes across as fiction. This is always how it is when we go from tracing memories to telling a story. When we remember, we imagine. To imagine is to combine different memories, to weave the fabric of recollection. The show is at the same time a mythological tale, a modern fable and a love story between a boy and a girl who know that simply being a boy and a girl is not enough for love to survive. Their bodies have to change, have to become complete… the human form should embrace the horse as a part of itself.

Two riders, two magnificent horses on stage…this show is surely the stuff of children’s dreams?

I like the answer that the 5-year-old Manolo gave when asked what job he would like to do when he grew up: “When I’m older, I will be a castle with artists and horses.” He was already conjuring up a place, a Foucault’s heterotopia…a future Théâtre du Centaure that he would go on to create with Camille in Marseille. A space that is both apart and connected. An open parenthesis on his neighbourhood: artists, horses, people. The show itself is part of this childhood dream.

It’s quite a feat to have horses on stage. Have you done this before?

I first came across Camille and Manolo 15 years ago at a writing workshop that I was leading. We met and we saw each other again. I wrote the manifesto of the Théâtre du Centaure for them. They then asked me to write Otto Witte, a monologue for David Mandineau and Koko the donkey from Poitou at the Théâtre du Centaure. After that, we created Flux. I was quickly struck and swept along by the Centaur’s own poetry, by the potential of these hybrid bodies on stage. The prospects are as engaging as the constraints. The horse imposes its rhythm, its demands; it needs to be listened to at every instant, to have calmness, profound empathy. It is the very embodiment of a mirror and needs to be given the best possible reflection.

Does the presence of a horse on stage allow you to open up an imaginary space in the show, one that speaks of mythology?

Its presence naturally lends itself to contemplation and fantasy, so inherent to our view of this magical creature. The centaur of mythology was violent and wild. In The Iliad, Homer describes it as a “beast.” We feel far removed from such ideas. What Camille and Manolo are seeking in their work is harmony and finesse, a peaceful, egalitarian relationship: affinity, friendship. We strive to put the creature at the centre of our thoughts, our artistic and human concerns. Texts from philosophers like Florence Burgat have proved important in reinforcing our approach. If the theatre is a space where we question being together and acting as one, the centaur embodies the perfect creature for such challenges.

Through the singular and highly physical relationship that Camille and Manolo have with their animal double, do we get to experience this friendship that you mention?

I hope so! I think this is a show that is both tender and tense, one that throws us back to our ability to listen and its importance; to the attention we pay to each other and to things, but also to our own bodies and the spaces we inhabit. By exploring the link between Camille and her animal half, Gaia, a superb Frisian, and the connection between Manolo and the Spanish thoroughbred Indra, we in turn explore our own relationship to love and friendship.

But the battle for this friendship is not easily won. With their close proximity to the centaurs, don’t you want to put the audience in touch with a more wild and untamed side?

The centaur is a hybrid monster or hubris in Greek; it means unbridled. Galloping two centaurs on a stage of 100m2 gives the audience the opportunity to feel the extraordinary power of these creatures, to be touched by their strangeness, to be immersed in their poetry. No grace without risks. Of course we run a risk, risks. Everything can break free or slip away from us…always... We play on steep slopes, on cliff tops. This is especially so of theatre whether we work with humans or animals. Every evening on stage we are showing a fragility we never forget. The other real aspect of the Théâtre du Centaure we reveal in the show is daily life, daily life with the horses. Martin Dustata’s photographs capture the atmosphere of the Centaur superbly. For all the actors involved, what are the constraints, the needs, the tasks to be done? How do they become a part of the living poem they are writing every day? It takes stability, passion, conviction, great endurance. You have to believe. At its very core, the performance asks the question: how ready am I to give my heart?

The centaur is, then, a metaphor for ourselves….Does it help us to understand how to deal with our wilder side?

We are drawn to violence, prodded by impulse. We are all violent in some way. To live is perhaps to acknowledge this violence, to learn to barter with it, to divert it, to channel or control it, to give it a form, to mask it… tenderness is that violence we embrace, we caress, we distract….

Will the audience come away transformed by what they have seen?

I believe (having often witnessed this) that the actual process of creativity and the sense of communion that springs from it, invite us to go together towards a feeling of joy: in any case, to seek or rediscover the sense of joy, the joy that we all share. To think is to seek joy. Writing too. To speak together. To try. To try again. Align your actions with joy or you will have to choose something else. The same goes for being a spectator. We look for a sense of joy in a gaze, the moments of silence, in what we are hearing, in how we are feeling and thinking. Without the possibility of joy, the whole political sphere shrinks. People are often surprised at how many plays I have written…but it is my way of living in this world, poetically and politically, an act that springs from one sense of joy and leads to another. Writing and theatre attempt to tend to this desire, this longing. We all need our actions, our thoughts and our relations with one another to be transported by joy. Without that, how do we transform them? How do we transform ourselves?

Joy is perhaps the expression of freedom within a relationship and is it this same freedom that can be seen between the centaurs in your show?

It’s a question of freedom, most certainly: of taming hopes and fears. We come to the theatre to see to what point there is a mastery of everything, be it cobbled together, simple, or insane. It’s not about achieving anything at all, there is nothing to achieve. But to calmly accept that we can fail, accept that we can try purely for the sake of trying. Yes, try to be free, for a while at least: maybe just for the instant of a gaze, or the beat of a gallop….because it’s so hard to be in your body, your language, to live every moment. Theatre tells us: it’s rare, it’s precious, grab hold of it.

family FUN
Génération Z festival
Main Auditorium running time 50 min. from 7 years +
  • october
  • thu 25 7:30pm
  • fri 26 7:30pm
  • sat 27 5pm
centaures, quand nous étions enfants
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