enterrer les Morts / réparer les Vivants

Théâtre Varia

23, 25, 26, 27 Mei/Mai/May 20:30
24 Mei/Mai/May 19:30
Duur/Durée/Duration: +/- 2:00
Taal/Langue/Language: Frans/français/French
Simultaanvertaling/Traduction simultanée/Simultaneous translation: Nl

After Koltès' Roberto Zucco and Barker's Les Européens, Armel Roussel has written an incisive adaptation of Chekhov's Platonov, entitled enterrer les Morts / réparer les Vivants. Far removed from Russian folklore, deep sighs and tedium, he explores the life of a nineteen-year-old writer observing the injustices and conflicts of his time. He writes about the drama of a young man full of anger, bursting with vitality but powerless to shape his life to meet his expectations. It is a contemporary story in an urban setting.

Naar/D'après/Based on: Anton Tchekhov, Platonov
Vertaling/Traduction/Translation: André Markowicz, Françoise Morvan
Regie, bewerking, scenografie/Mise en scène, adaptation, scénographie/Direction, adaptation, scenography: Armel Roussel
Assistenten/Assistantes/Assistants: Anne Marcq, Raphaële Germser
Componist/Compositeur/Composer: Philippe Cam
Acteurs/Actors: Karim Barras, Yoann Blanc, Renaud Cagna, Eric Castex, Urteza da Fonseca, Anne Delatour, Stéphanie Delcart, Frédéric Lubansu, Fanny Marcq, Vincent Minne, Armel Roussel
Coaching: Claudio Graisman
Make-up ontwerp/Création maquillage/Make-up design: Zaza da Fonseca
Make-up/Maquilleuse: Esther Wauters
Kostuums/Costumes: Mina Lee, Souad Kajjal
Video/Vidéo: Philippe Baste
Klank-ontwerp/Création sonore/Sound design: Marc Lacroix
Technisch directeur/Directeur technique/Technical director: Marc Defrise
Licht/Eclairage/Lighting: Marc Lhommel
Productieleiding/Directeur de production/Production manager: Nathalie Deleu, Laurent Henry
Stagiaire/Trainee: Rodolphe Coster
Productie/Production: Compagnie Utopia (Brussel/Bruxelles)
Coproductie/Coproduction: Théâtre de l'Union - Centre Dramatique National de Limoges, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts
Met de medewerking van/Avec la collaboration de/In collaboration with: Théâtre Varia (Brussel/Bruxelles)
Met de steun van/Avec le soutien de/Supported by: Le Ministère de la Communauté française de Belgique - Service du Théâtre, Commissariat Général aux Relations Internationales, la Commission Communautaire française de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale - Secteur du Théâtre, Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles
Project partners/Partenaires du projet/Project partners: Centre Dramatique National de Gennevilliers, Théâtre du Muselet (Scène Nationale de Châlons-en-Champagne)
Presentatie/Présentation/Presentation: Théâtre Varia, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Compagnie Utopia is in residentie bij/est en résidence au/is in residence at: Théâtre Varia

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A young man of 19 lives with his family in a seedy district where the city's brothels are to be found. Hard working, he is in the second year of his medical studies in a gloomy, dilapidated faculty of the university. It is winter and a bitter cold is setting in, intensifying the misery around him. Students and friends of his, frequently hold meetings to express their anger and indignation at those in power. The police are watching them. The young man is not an active revolutionary but he does go to meetings to hear the others. He enjoys writing and this winter is feverishly working on his first play - it is a marathon work, untitled, turbulent and clashing. The year is 1880 and the place is Moscow. The young man is Anton Chekhov. He destroys the script he has written after the play is rejected by one of his favourite actresses. His original version of it is found again and altered. The play will be called Platonov - the little Plato - which is the name of the main protagonist.

"I don't know whether it's a phenomenon of a century coming to an end, but I find it hard to believe that this play was written so long ago. Of course Russian society, then, is not like our society now. Of course the countryside of this waning aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century is nothing like our twentieth-century cities. But the text could have been written today. It is pushed and pulled about by the energy you find in an urban environment because running through it is a feeling of there being no way out, of conflicting desires, anger and disillusionment. I don't want to force Platonov to be modern, but I don't want to remove its strong resonance with today either."

Following Bernard-Marie Koltès'Roberto Zucco and Howard Barker's Les Européens, Armel Roussel and the actors from his company Utopia are now tackling Chekhov's Platonov. He has used one of the play's last lines to give it a new title - "bury the Dead, mend the Living". His new adaptation of it is tight, informal and direct. He replaces the Russian countryside, the conventions of politeness, the long patronymics and the veneer of using the formal ‘vous'. Platonov, Anna, Sergei, Sofia, Sacha, Maria and the others talk to each other using the informal ‘tu', directly and without circumlocution. "I think it is a meaningful adaptation, quite faithful to the play", Armel explains. "Mostly I cut out the start of each scene where Chekhov sets out the psychology of the action that is about to take place. I reduced the twenty characters in Platonov to ten by giving just one of them the same set of themes found in a number of parts, and I reduced the number of directions in which Chekhov's writing goes to what seems to me to be its essence. The adaptation goes to the very core of the text, to what gives it the energy of the moment, a quite anarchic energy at that."

Platonov: There's nothing worse than not being able to respect yourself. God, I can't see that there's anything in me to hang on to. There's nothing remotely to make me respect or appreciate myself. I'm just weak, terrifyingly weak.

Anna: Doing yourself down is the worst arrogance. Live. Move. Life is here.

Platonov: The world is so dark and strange. I will go. Walk...destroy, trample, damage...I'm so ashamed. There's no plot, it's a hideous mess.

Anna: Everyone has passions, no one has strength.

Platonov: Hamlet was afraid of dreaming. I'm scared stiff of living.

"Platonov is a thinker. He had a brilliant future ahead of him, but stops studying and ends up a schoolteacher. He used to love Sofia, sharing with her the same revolutionary ideals, but she is slipping into a life that goes against his convictions. Platonov damages what's around him because he can't escape himself. He is overtaken by the turbulent urges of his demanding thinking. He lives in the here and now with no thought for the consequences his actions may have. It is not that he is Machiavellian, nihilistic or thoughtless. He is certainly not mad. He is unable to find peace, unable to find out how to live and why. How do you live alone? How do you live with others, in society? How do you live without money? How do you live with money? How do you live without any aim? Totally tormented, he self-destructs before even having the opportunity to destroy. He isn't suicidal - this mini version of Plato, the sun behind him, rattles his human chains in the shadow of his mortal cave; he is incapable of giving himself death, Armel explains. His chimerical existence reminds me of Nietzsche's phrase - ‘life is ethereal and funereal, like the suicide of a butterfly'. Only just born, so ephemeral and already condemned."

From Chekhovian despair, Armel retains exuberance and vitality. The director violently rejects the standard image of a Chekhov who produces nothing but sighs and silences of boredom. "Being bored and being passive are not the same thing at all! In any case, in Chekhov, ‘powerlessness' seems more accurate to me than ‘boredom'. He turns this feeling into something concrete, his dialogues are powerful, his language is stimulating and his rhythms as lively as those of a comedy. Platonov is like an unstoppable whirlwind - fiery, ardent and direct. Around him, in the adaptation, I worked a lot on obsession. Some characters are marked like a scratched record. Maria repeats, ‘Please tell me that I am beautiful.' Sergei: ‘But are you happy?' Old Glagoliev: ‘In my day...' I quite like the character Glagoliev, the general who said he marched against the enemy using his brain. To me it's a bit like Wesley Clark, the military chief of NATO forces in Serbia. He conveys this obligatory morality to the effect that ‘things were always better before', as if we are living in a modern world that can only have lost out in comparison with the past. In fact all of them, in their own way, are scared stiff of living. To start with, the play was called ‘Piessa bez nazvania' which was translated as ‘Fatherless'. But it seems that a closer translation of this Russian title is ‘Origins wide-open' - that is his metaphysical origins. I think it's a lot more apt."

Armel, smiling, says, "When I talk about it, I get the feeling that the questions Koltès and Barker asked in their own way in Zucco and Les Européens are not that different. Maybe I'm in the process of completing the cycle of a trilogy without knowing it (he laughs), or maybe I'm undertaking my own psychoanalysis (he says mischievously). In any case that's not what is intended! What I would like to do here is go back to how the characters emerge from the actors and not the other way round. The way it is staged will be less voluntarist. The entire meaning of it will come out of the interaction, out of what the characters say in an interior-exterior of metal edged with ephemeral material. Video screens will transmit their actions live and a small sound system will invite them to reveal the secret refrain of their nostalgia."

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