QUESTIONS OF THE AUDIENCE
62nd Festival d'Avignon
4-26 July 2008
Before creating this 62nd Festival, we spent a great deal of time talking with the actress Valérie Dréville and the Italian artist Romeo Castellucci, whom we asked to be associate artists together. They are in very different creation spaces. Valérie Dréville, an actress, built an artist's career with directors such as Antoine Vitez, Claude Régy, Alain Françon and Anatoli Vassiliev. Romeo Castellucci, the creator of his own shows, has invented a sensitive and visual form of theatre that is extraordinarily powerful. Their art forms always offer the spectators an opportunity to have a strong and singular experience and often lead them to unexpected territories, to hear beyond words, to see beyond images. We chose to publish one of our conversations to accompany the spectators in their journey through the Festival.
This Festival's creations query us on life and death, on our fears and melancholy, our need to love and to believe, to grow and transmit. Based on contemporary writings or revisiting the great works of the European repertory, they will call on our curiosity, our desire for discovery and will sometimes take us into an unknown land to better stimulate our own critical spirit.
As it encompasses the mystery of the human being in all his complexity, as it calls on the spectator's intelligence and respects the freedom of his viewpoint on the shows, this Festival is political and resists the temptations to simplify what surround us. It reminds us that theatre has carried within itself, since its very beginnings, that paradoxical desire for a common image of the world that is shared by the spectators who are present, together, at an experience but that will strike each of them differently. In this sense, it symbolically goes beyond the venue of the theatre itself and invests the city. That is why public policies, in France as in Europe, need to consider artistic creation as an unalienable public good and that its production and programming must be supported apart from just the laws of the market, in an approach centred on solidarity and sharing.
We await you, artists and spectators, this summer in Avignon, so that theatre comes to pass and, we, together bear witness to its necessity, diversity and vitality.
Hortense Archambault et Vincent Baudriller
Avignon, 7 March 2008
QUESTIONS OF THE AUDIENCE
2008 FIRST REPORT
62nd Festival d'Avignon
4-26 July 2008
The 62nd Festival d'Avignon will draw to a close on Saturday, 26th July 2008 with amongst others the final performance of Paul Claudel's Partage de Midi (Break of Noon) which opened the festival on the 4th of July. The fringe festival "OFF" will continue until the 2nd of August.
Inspired by the worlds and practices of the two associate artists, the actress Valérie Dréville and the Italian artist Romeo Castellucci, and infused by the continuous dialogue between them and the two festival directors Hortense Archambault and Vincent Baudriller, this 62nd opus has put the emphasis on theatre as a profound and and constantly renewed human experience for both the artist and the audience and brought to the fore the performer as an artist.
The festival bore witness both of the huge artistic creativity on offer on French, European and International stages and of the curiosity and attentiveness of the many spectators who came to discover new works and share their experience in numerous debates and public meetings throughout the festival. The artistic and public success of the festival showed that a theatre which embraces the risks of creation and research can reach a wide audience. The festival also demonstrated the power of the voice of the artists when they are given the means to create in freedom and confidence, and when they are enriched by an audience ready to engage with them.
With two-thirds of the shows on offer being either premieres or seen in France for the first time, the Festival d'Avignon remains a unique place to discover French and international works and attracts spectators end practitioners from all around the world. It is to be noted that most of the French shows had one performance presented with an English translation. The first two shows of the Cour d'Honneur, Inferno and Hamlet were filmed and broadcast during the festival on the European channel Arte. Arte also devoted a whole day to the Festival on the 12th July.
Wading through this 62nd opus, one could notice strong connections between shows: Romeo Castellucci's Divine Comedy and Partage de midi with Valérie Dréville successively resonated between mystery and enigma, between dream and nightmare along with the shows of Heiner Goebbels and Joël Pommerat, of Le Théâtre du Radeau, the Quay Brothers, Cirque Ici, Kris Verdonck, Mathilde Monnier/ Philippe Katerine and Emio Greco. Others asked questions about our quest for love (Arthur Nauzyciel, Alvis Hermanis, Jan Fabre and Daniel Jeanneteau & Marie-Christine Soma), about melancholy (Philippe Quesne and Ricardo Bartis), and about the complex relationship between power and representation (Thomas Ostermeier, Ivo Van Hove, Guy Cassiers, Superamas or Stanislas Nordey).
The idea of filiations was also present throughout the Festival either directly as with Hamlet and with The Seagull directed by Claire Lasne Darcueil, or through the many parents and children appearing on stage (in Castellucci's Inferno, with the Airport Kids of Lola Arias & Stefan Kaegi or with the fathers of Virgilio Sieni and Benjamin Verdonck). Filiation also resonated with transmission and the passing on of experience through the cycle around the figure of Antoine Vitez every morning at the Musée Calvet, and with the presence within the programme of many actors he taught: Valérie Dréville, Dominique Reymond, Jean Marie Winling, Redjep Mitrovitsa, Dominique Valadié and Serge Maggiani. Two drama schools were also invited into the programme: the directing class of ENSATT working with Anatoli Vassiliev and the actors from ERAC with Ludovic Lagarde.
All these connected ideas and issues were also debated within the Théâtre des idées series of conferences.
The variety of shows presented in the festival revealed the richness and diversity of processes and practices at play within the dance and theatre worlds. Some projects even emanated directly from the performers as with Partage de midi but also with Olivier Dubois and Johanne Saunier.
The possibility for the spectator to encounter works from Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, England, Latvia, Switzerland, Argentina and China (with Sutra) alongside French shows allowed a direct and powerful experience of cultural diversity. Intercultural dialogue was also the subject debated during the second edition of the "Rencontres européennes", this time organised in partnership with the Festival d'Aix.
Altogether, the Festival presented 310 performances of 45 shows (Including the four 25e heure and the eight Sujets à Vif programmes) in 24 different venues. There were also 3 exhibitions/installations, as well as many playreadings, conferences and debates. The shows played to a record 93% capacity, equalling last year's but with 16,000 extra seats for a total of 116,000 seats delivered to which we can add 14,000 paying entries to the exhibitions and installations to reach an estimated audience figure of 130,000.
The attention given by the Festival to develop and facilitate access to a wider audience was demonstrated by the success of the free events: the école d'art with 13,000 visitors this year is rapidly becoming an essential meeting place for all spectators. The readings, screenings, concerts and the Théâtre des idées cycle attracted over 15,000 visitors. The number of young spectators (students and under 25's) continued to grow (more than 15,000 seats) and included 660 college pupils who were able to visit the festival with the joint support of their local authorities, the Ministry of Education and the teams of the Ceméa.
At times when the necessity for artists to be given the conditions to create new work and for audiences to experience them seems to be increasingly in jeopardy, this year's Festival clearly demonstrated that the dynamism of creative artists and the diversity of forms and discourses are echoed by the strong demand on the part of the audience. Together they aspire, through the performing arts, to think and invent today's world, the future and human destiny.
The vitality of the performing arts will not be able to sustain itself without substantial public support in order to produce the work and make it accessible to the wider audience. These concerns often surfaced in the numerous meetings and debates on offer from unions and from professional and political organisations present in Avignon.
For next year's Festival, Vincent Baudriller and Hortense Archambault have chosen the Canadian-Lebanese playwright and director Wajdi Mouawad to be their associate artist. The programme for the 63rd Festival will be announced in March 2009.