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théâtre national de nice

Saison 2018-19

théâtre national de nice

[ Original creation | Co-production ]

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DIRECTED BY JORIS FRIGERIO

with Guillaume Geoffroy, Lucie Lastella, Matthieu Renevret, Paulo Perelsztein, Rémy Ingrassia, Joris Frigerio artistic advising and directing of actors Jean Jacques Minazio musical composition Samuel Sérandour lighting Léo Wassmer, Tom Couillerot costumes Elisa Octo Set design Tom Couillerot, Léo Wassmer, Joris Frigerio construction Jean-Philippe Caillard help with script Caroline Audibert intern Kevin Gallet production Cie Les Hommes de Mains co-production Théâtre National de Nice - CDN Nice Côte d’Azur, Pôle Arts de la Scène - Friche la Belle de Mai - Marseille, Archaos - Pôle National Cirque Méditerranée

In a building at the centre of an all-engulfing megalopolis, five residents, each in their own flat, carry on with their loveless existence. They all have something in common - their struggle to find a place in the world. An angel with little ambition enters their lives with a difficult mission: to save them from themselves. Will he succeed?
Welcome to the illusory reality of circus performer and niçois director Joris Frigerio. His elegant and original creation reveals the secret gardens of the human soul in all their splendour and bleakness. A sort of walking orchestra, he composes this contemporary fresco through his outrageous acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and an actor who sets the whole tone of the piece. Through their highly visual, inventive and moving performance, this multi-talented company leads us to dream. This is an acrobatic theatre performance that illuminates a small sample of humanity.

A cinematic, dreamlike and Chaplin-esque show that wholeheartedly plunges into and through the abyss to find laughter and light.

FOLLOWED BY A DISCUSSION WITH THE ACTORS SATURDAY MARCH.

Interview Joris Frigerio

Interview by Caroline Audibert

In City, you interwove video and circus. How do you see circus today?

My first show, City, was a mixture of circus and documentary. In Frontières, I wanted to blend circus and theatre (both of which had been in my life since childhood) to the point that there were no more boundaries between these two worlds. On stage, the circus performers are silent…mute, in a rather Chaplin-esque way and an actor handles the theatrical side. The actor embodies words from deep within and triggers the emotions that run through the audience. I want to turn the circus performers into actors and use the actor to do it. Circus performers master the body more than the voice. I therefore put the circus performers to work, focusing on gestures, mime and silent expression, mirroring the actor’s own expressions. I engage the actor to interact with the body and movement. It’s quite a performance! What drives this work is the search for a pure form of emotion, one that is true, with no filters. I hope that it strikes a chord, feels right and is moving…. I want it to be Chaplin-like, a piece that we can see at anytime and that comes across more as a universal play, rather than simply a “current” one.

The story unfolds in a megacity; the characters are in an apartment block; we catch them unawares in a life that is far from rosy……

This is a play that is both tragic and funny. We have an ambitious lawyer in search of love, a trader who is obsessed by success, a depressed and deeply selfless concierge and two, stony-broke flatmates who are terrified about what the future holds. Then we have an angel, the actor, who comes into their lives. He’s actually an executive or bureaucratic angel who has come to Earth pretty much against his will. He has been given a mission - to get things running smoothly in this building where nothing is going right.

Using their bodies, mute acting and circus craft, the characters begin to make the lines of their existence, the overly narrow borders of their individual Selves, shift….

Each of the characters, in their own way falls prey to solitude; to feeling confined…they are prisoners behind their own mental frontiers. The challenge for the angel is to soothe these neuroses and to restore communication between them. Will he succeed? Will he be condemned forever to stay on Earth? Can Man change? Rather like in La vie Est Belle by Franck Capra, the angel has to show the characters that life really isn’t so bad! He is the only one who has a voice but nobody hears or sees him: he gets discouraged and tries to call the switchboard at Angel HQ…but it just rings out. This is Kafkaesque…and then changes happen when you least expect them. In short, Frontières is a dark and funny humanist tale.

What writing process do you follow in building this show?

The words that inspire and guide me in my work are: beautiful, crazy, emotional, funny, brave…. It’s a complete creative process from the music to the gestures and the storyline. We are a resident company at the Nice Theatre for periods of intense creative work. I first propose to my team that they improvise scenes I have written so that they get to know the story and then we develop scenes together. These are character roles, if only because I have written parts for each actor in line with their individual personality. They are my starting point and I asked myself how they would be if I ramp it up a bit? What if I take their good and bad points into the realms of caricature? I’ve imagined myself in the role of a crazed trader, like in American Psycho. Matthieu plays an altruist concierge who is generous but in the grips of deep despair and who is manhandled by everyone around him. It’s all rather challenging because we are going towards things we have never done before.

Does the acrobatic element serve the acting rather than the other way round?

Yes, that’s the challenge with this production. The acrobatics really are the icing on the cake. I try to tear myself away from technique whilst at the same time mastering it. I draw on it to allow myself to try things out, to push the boundaries but it is nevertheless still there to serve the dramatic side. Circus artists, like myself, play all of the characters. Three of them trained at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque. Lucie masters the Cyr wheel: she spins herself around in all directions, she is a contortionist and tightrope walker too…she has a talent for silent acting. The acrobatic couple is completed with Matthieu, a virtuoso “catcher” whom I push to surpass himself in his expressiveness. As for the flatmates, one is a juggler, the other an acrobat.

Your play brings together a cross-section of society. Where does the strength of your characters lie?

Each of them is caught up in an extremely worrying state of psychological stress that ends up being released. These characters are important because they are close to us. Their strength lies in their ability to be moved suddenly, to open up and reach out. The concierge, for example who is played by Mathieu is particularly endearing because he connects everything: he is maligned by the others, is depressed and an alcoholic: he has hit rock-bottom….but at a certain point he picks himself up and is fine. The angel is patient with him, is inherently good and more importantly is not afraid, even though he too has his weaknesses and discouraging moments. We forgive him his over-thinking… he has to use any means he can to get the job done!

Was cinema also a source of inspiration for you?

Yes – ideally, I would like the show to play out like a film. I was inspired by the humanist tale La Vie Est Belle by Franck Capra: I really admire the scenario – pure mastery! I obviously have watched and re-watched Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire to help build the role of the discreet angel, who comes to the help of humans, listens to them and empathises with them. The characters each carry some of that dramatic tension that gives Jeunet’s film Delicatessen such power and some of the madness of Brazil or American Psycho. However, whether we like it or not, stage scenery does not lend itself to a truly cinematic finish. For the show, I decided to use video sequences in the introduction to give an all-encompassing dreamlike quality to mark the angel’s arrival.

The characters are in an apartment block, at home – are you exploring a kind of “behind closed doors” approach here? Is Hell the “others”?

Yes, we’re “in camera”, peering into the private lives of five characters. Here they are, alone and in their apartments where they do things they would never do in front of others. I wanted to reveal their intimate details, their madness, their dreams….the very best and darkest elements that we all have within us. Without any filter. To make it honest, raw. Hell would be loneliness, the impossibility of being with others.

“Brave” is a word that has guided you in this production. Would that be because it confronts certain truths, the darker side of humanity in modern times? Or is it because it finds ways to change it?

Because it is utopian. I use courage or bravery as a working method in directing and in the circus: it’s a means not to take the easy route but to go to the very limit of what I really want to bring out. For sure, I don’t want to run away from the premise of confronting certain truths but I also don’t want to weigh down the audience either! I would like to give them a moment when they can feel understood, when they can laugh and dream, be moved, feel good, feel happy….that their evening, their week has been bathed in light to some degree, even if they had to pass through a bit of darkness to see it. To depart from darkness..now that’s is interesting to me..it’s better for letting the light shine through!

In this production you are a bit of a one-man-band in a sense: both on stage and behind the scenes.

I manage the team, I write the scripts, I perform….it’s a lot to handle! Fortunately, Jean-Jacques Minazio gives me advice on staging. I tend to attack it with a lot of verve, tracing the broad lines….then he steps in with his usual calm, gives his opinion, sculpts and works the detail. We really complement each other.

What are your sources of inspiration from the circus?

I discovered the universe of James Thierrée when I was 17, with La symphonie du hanneton. He provided the impetus to get me started, the desire to open up circus to other worlds, to explore this porosity between aesthetics, languages. Then I came across the field-specific work of the circus artists trained at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque. I admired them. Working in a single discipline, they played their part in shaking up the conventional rules of the circus: I subscribe to this generation of circus performers. Buster Keaton, Chaplin and Mr Bean obviously have inspired me - all of those great silent artists that I admire so much. On top of the acrobatics and balancing acts, two demanding disciplines that I have practiced now for 15 years, I also want to introduce elements of mime, laughter and working with objects.

always on the move
Main Auditorium running time 1h15 from 10 years +
  • february
  • thu 28 8pm
  • march
  • sat 2 8pm
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