Melanie Daniels

14, 15, 16, 17, 18/05 – 20:30

1h 40min

Caught between production constraints, continual questioning and stormy personal relationships, a film crew hopes to make a follow-up to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. When the American actress approached to perform the role of Melanie Daniels arrives, the real trouble begins… Talented Brussels director Claude Schmitz continues his journey at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts with this production. Showing extraordinary power of imagination, he portrays archetypal characters on the borderline between the worlds of art and entertainment. The film set becomes a microcosm, mirroring a reality where other power relationships come into play and the vanity of a few governs the lives of many others. Melanie Daniels is not a remake or a sequel to Hitchcock’s masterpiece. It is a satire questioning artistic creation during a period of crisis and crisis during a period of creation. A gripping topical tale!

Concept & direction
Claude Schmitz

Marc Barbé, Marie Bos, Davis Freeman, Clément Losson, Arié Mandelbaum, Kate Moran, Patchouli

Direction assistant
Arthur Egloff

Trainee direction
Judith Ribardière

Boris Dambly

Arieh Serge Mandelbaum, Boris Dambly, Judith Ribardière

Lighting design
Philippe Orlinski

Trainee lighting
Octavie Piéron

Music & sound
Thomas Turine

Technical direction
Fred Op De Beeck

Trainee technique
Marion Garaud

Marie Guillon Le Masne

Zaza Da Fonseca

Trainee production
Clément Dallex Mabille

Manon Faure

Claude Schmitz

Philippe Orlinski

Camera assistant
Ryszard Karcz

Sabrina Calmels

Special thanks to
Julien Sigalas

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre la Balsamine

Paradies (Brussels)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre la Balsamine (Brussels)

Supported by
Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles - Service Théâtre, Agence Wallonie-Bruxelles

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Amerika (2006), The Inner Worlds, Le Souterrain / Le Château (2008), Mary Mother of Frankenstein (2010) and most recently the series Salon des Refusés - sans jury, ni récompense (2011-2012) are the latest creations in a body of work for theatre that Claude Schmitz has been developing since the early 2000s. In their own way, each of his projects questions the conflicting relationship between the individual and the world and his own interiority. These works are like initiatory journeys in the form of daydreams in which the person attempts to define himself in a topography blending fantasy with reality.

Melanie Daniels is the protagonist in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film The Birds, played back then by the American actress Tippi Hedren. It depicts the small town of Bodega Bay in the United States which becomes the target of blood-soaked attacks by birds when Melanie Daniels, the film's mysterious young heroine, appears. The Birds is not merely a horror film or thriller, but a fantastic work in the sense that it is related to an element of the fantastic. As in the English master's best films, it is tinged with an ambiguous discourse. What is the link between the birds and Melanie? Are they an incarnation of fear or - from a psychoanalytical point of view - the disastrous materialisation of the heroine's frustrations? Or is the film an exploration of our unconscious and doubtless tragic ability to anticipate the catastrophes that threaten us? So is Melanie a kind of modern Cassandra? To an extent it is about all this together, casting a sidelong glance at the story while offering a cruel metaphor of 1960s American society which can still be applied to ours.

Although this production carries the name of the film's character, it is not a remake for theatre or an imaginary follow-up to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, but a fantastical reflection of creation in the wide sense of the word. Beginning with a specific starting point, the calamitous filming of an improbable follow-up to Hitchcock's masterpiece, the show gradually slides towards more uncertain areas, continually questioning and then blurring the relationships between fiction and reality. Hitchcock's film nevertheless plays a central role and the heroine of The Birds features extensively in it. Therefore meeting Kate Moran, who plays the actress personifying Melanie Daniels, was crucial for Claude Schmitz, because there is such a strong resemblance between Kate and Hitchcock's character.

This production about making it in the process of being made echoes a whole chapter of cinema history, more specifically films about film shoots. Almost a genre in their own right, they include The State of Things by Wim Wenders, The Last Movie by Dennis Hopper, by Federico Fellini, Day for Night by François Truffaut, Beware of a Holy Whore by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and A Slave of Love by Nikita Mikhalkov. If there is a common theme in these films, it is crisis. For the people behind them, in their respective eras these cathartic productions represented a way of questioning the medium through the medium. Melanie Daniels is like this, playing with a mirroring effect shifting from cinema to theatre. By scripting a crisis situation, the catalyst for which is the director played by actor-director Marc Barbé, the show confronts issues linked to inspiration, love, ego, authority, the material and technical possibilities of directing, and desire - none of it without irony. Other than the archetypal figure of the director, the performer and the producer, there is a procession of assistants and technicians. Together they form a court that is both touching and grotesque, a hierarchised microsociety which in itself constitutes a possible metaphor for mankind.

The group of performers brought together for Melanie Daniels are professional actors and individuals who have not had stage training. This process which Claude Schmitz has been using since his debut in theatre and which he recently pushed to its limits with a project like Salon des Refusés - sans jury, ni récompense aims to accentuate the effects of realities, question the notion of incarnation and lend a documentary-like dimension to the illusions created. Claude Schmitz writes especially for people who are dear to him, who are not interchangeable and who are literally the characters. He tends to draw an ambiguous fine line between the performer and the characters in this vision of theatre. His theatre tends to be situated on the edge of chasm, failure and collapse. For it here, on the dividing line between form and formless that, according to him, the living is revealed and that theatre - archaic activity that it is - finds a raison d'être in our contemporary society. Without doubt this is the heart of his project. Showing the living - the thing in the process of being made - is also about showing its disappearance and absolute fragility.

At the genesis of each of Claude Schmitz's projects is primarily intuition. It is not the desire to tell a story that prevails, but rather the desire to associate initial sensations and understand what links them in order to bring out a context of meanings. It would be like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw without knowing what the whole is going to represent. By bringing together these assorted fragments, by establishing the cartography of this hybrid territory with a view to naming it, we come straight to the point of the story. This approach joins poetic and visual processes together. Claude Schmitz regularly constructs his productions using techniques close to collage and exquisite corpse. It is without doubt one of the reasons why his way of telling the story marries the dream's form and structure. In a general way, if there is the sense that stories are being told, then these stories are deliberately full of holes. Like the chaotic and fragmented space of Melanie Daniels, there are several sides to them, several angles of approach. They are intentionally complex and porous. The audience's imagination is invited to graft itself onto them and move around freely.

Judith Ribardière, April 2013
Translated by Claire Tarring

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Claude Schmitz (b. 1979) is a graduate of the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) in staging. He was an associate artist at the Halles de Schaerbeek (Brussels), and his latest creations have been presented at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre National, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Halles de Schaerbeek, Théâtre la Balsamine, La Filature, Théâtre de la Place, Salzburger Festspiele, etc. Recently, he directed his first medium-length film. He also officiates as an actor under the direction of other directors.

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