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The young Argentine writer and director Federico León was a guest of the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts in 2001. He is returning in 2003 to create a new work in Brussels: El adolescente.
“This is the first time that I’ve worked on a text that I haven’t written. I’m using fragments from several novels by Dostoyevsky that I’ve been annotating for more than seven years. His characters crystallise all the features of adolescence for me. The idea is not to reproduce their story, but rather give vent to this fever through a polyphony of characters by carving out music from their words and movement from their bodies.”
Dramaturgy & Direction:
Assistant to the Director:
Carmen Baliero & "El adolescente".
Julián Tello, Emanuel Torres, Ignacio Rogers, Miguel Angel Olivera, Germán De Silva
Set Design, Objects & Set Manager:
Alejandro Le Roux
Complejo Teatral Buenos Aires
León - Saphir
Festival d'automne à Paris, Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Hebbel Theater (Berlin), Theatre Garonne, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts
De Kriekelaar, KunstenFESTIVALdesArtsBack to top
In 2001 the young Argentine writer and director Federico León was invited to the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts
with Mil quinientos sobre el nivel de Jack, in which all the action took place in a
bathroom, its bath full of water from his mother’s tears. León is now returning to Brussels in 2003 to create El adolescente here.
“I like a work to be able to find its form organically. Everything should be open to being changed which is why the creative process becomes long and unpredictable. Each element has pass through the filter of a test: the indispensible “verification” performed by actors and directors during rehearsals. As far as I’m concerned research is very important. Indeed I choose the process that we’re going to have to go through first before picking a text or the actors. The play is always a reflection of this process which reveals how the play is shaped.
I do intimate theatre. It is performed in small spaces for a limited number of people. Proximity is crucial. The spectator has to have the feeling that he is almost part of the stage and that an interaction is being created between the actors and the audience. The spectator has to be aware that what he is seeing is taking place at that very moment and will doubtless never be reproduced.
On the other hand, I strive to create “small-scale” works that don’t project themselves noisily. They force the spectator to get close and make the effort to gain access to what he sees. This happens rarely, if at all, in large theatres where the spectator is totally separate from the stage, unable to take part in this interaction. There the play is unleashed on the spectators who don’t have to do anything: it’s served to them on a plate as a smooth and finished product.
As I consider that an actor has to feel his way, as it were, and find his bearings in unexpected situations, it is up to the director to keep a check on himself, to go against his own tendencies and create a lively interaction with the actors, assistants, set and lighting people, musicians etc.
This is the first time that I’ve worked with a text that I haven’t written. El adolescente is based on the one hand on notes taken over the past seven years in the margin of fragments I’ve unearthed from novels by Dostoyevsky (The Devils, The Brothers Karamazov, The Adolescent, The Idiot, The Insulted and Injured, The Eternal Husband and The Double) and, on the other, the actors’ improvisation work.
The play depicts two adults who insinuate themselves amongst young people, attempting to forcibly recapture their youth at any price. They put themselves to the test under the watchful gaze of the others to regain this “state of grace” of puberty, this energy that allows them to sweat again, to believe in something, to go mad and to fall in love. It’s an artificially recaptured second puberty.
It was not my intention to reproduce Dostoyevsky’s stories, but rather to base it on his way of doing things, his poetry and therefore the way he constructs a work. One of the fundamental characteristics of Dostoyevsky’s novels is their polyphony of autonomous voices and independent consciences. This concept of polyphony is translated by the way in which we develop the play. I suggest a text and then this text is experienced by different actors of different ages, each with their own style of acting and their own way of thinking. We are not a ready-made theatre company. We don’t have a common view of theatre. This diversity, this polyphony creates the cocktail of the approach I take first, mixed with innovations added by the actors.
Dostoyevsky’s characters conduct themselves like immature adolescents in search of confrontation. They put themselves to the test, preparing for their grand entrance into the world.
Another fundamental characteristic is that these people turn themselves into the novel’s masters by writing it themselves. What animates Dostoyevsky’s novels is what happens to the characters rather than the story itself. The story is influenced by the characters’ whims or rather the characters’ logic. Dostoyevsky’s project to a large extent is to camouflage, lose and merge himself into his characters.
All these strategies come together into the idea of creating the “instant present”: the present of the novel (the feeling that the characters are taking shape as we go along and which the reader is called upon to witness). I want to find this same “present” in theatre.
For my part, the fact of writing is not distinct from directing. I always write for me and what I write depends very much on what is happening on stage. I write my plays according to the actors, their abilities and their limits.
In recent years theatre has let itself be invaded by the idea that God doesn’t exist – omnipresent cynicism. I think that believing again, defending an idea, however small, is a lot more daring. On principle I believe in the power of acting in theatre. I believe that a work has the power to disturb. The complicit nod in the direction of the spectator is an empty gesture. And Godot has to make his entrance. I still see a work as a train that never arrives and God does not exist, so we converse. I can allow myself anything, I can navel-gaze: the only thing I’m interested in is knowing that my work is read because it’s me who has written it. We always begin by doing things for a handful of individuals, for ourselves. It’s hard here to construct a theory today that won’t collapse tomorrow. But I believe in acting, I believe that something happens between the spectator and the actors and that something shifts.
The work after the premiere is just as vital. It’s important to study the relationship between the audience and the play and how this relationship is going to change according to different perceptions of the play.
I also like working with elements that, repeated, present a certain risk. The aim is to construct controlled chaos, a world of uncontrollable elements; find the logic in it and repeat it; create situations that are hard to grasp in a hyper-controlled structure. Make a dog act, endlessly having to repeat the same thing, and on the other hand create a world where it is possible to forget that there is a dog at all. Let this dog become part of the fiction, let it stop being a dog, let it become instead “the dog in the play”.
I don’t ask myself what story I’m going to tell or what I want to say before starting rehearsals for a play. I rehearse in Buenos Aires and experience at first hand what is going on there. It permeates my creations and inspires them. Argentina is a country where rules change from day to day. Nothing can be predicted. The same goes for creating.
In spite of the current situation in Buenos Aires, there’s a lot going on in the world of theatre and film. We still have the desire to come together to rehearse new plays, even if we don’t know where they will be performed.
This absence of a framework of production for any creative process, and the fact that it is impossible for us to think there will be any kind of financial continuity to feed it, generates plenty of alternative propositions.”
(Federico León, March-April 2003)Back to top