2, 6, 7/05 – 20:30
3/05 – 18:00
FR > NL / EN
2h 15min

Few theatre companies are so intimately connected with the history of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts as Transquinquennal: since the festival’s first edition in 1994, their name has been on the poster no less than five times. In 2014, the group comprising of Bernard Breuse, Miguel Decleire, and Stéphane Olivier is 25 years old and on their 41st performance. With Quarante-et-un, the Brusselaars promise to make their most enticing performance so far. But what is beauty, actually, and how do we look at it? Images can relay a successful aesthetic but a controversial ethic – just look at images of war. As wittily as enthusiastically, Quarante-et-un plays with our sense of good and bad taste. According to the authors, it is going to be a wonderful production with grand ambitions and a dizzying theme. What more could you expect?

Concept & direction
Bernard Breuse, Miguel Decleire, Stéphane Olivier

Transquinquennal, Christine Aventin, Guy Bedos et Sophie Daumier (L’adagio d’Albinoni), François Le Lionnais (La Peinture à Dora), Albert von St. Gallen Heim (Remarks on fatal falls)

Allan Bertin, Nathalie Cornet, Mathias Decleire, Bernard Eylenbosch, Lucie Guien, Marie Henry, Eliza Lozano Raya, Emilie Meinguet, Nahee Lee, Odilon Olivier, Jean-Baptiste Polge, Judith Williquet, Mélanie Zucconi

Direction assistant-intern
Noémie Decroix

Choreographer & artistic advisor
Gregory Grosjean

Scenography & costumes
Marie Szersnovicz

Sound creation
Brice Cannavo

Light creation
Jean-Jacques Deneumoustier

Smoke concept
Nicolas Olivier

Odile Dubucq

Technique & stage
Equipe technique du Théâtre Varia

Translations & surtitling
Erik Borgman (Werkhuis), Bart Boone

Pierre-Laurent Boudet

Céline Renchon


Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre Varia in partnership with Centre des Arts Scéniques (Mons), Vooruit Kunstencentrum (Gent), Charleroi/Danses (Brussels/Charleroi), Festival Monophonic (Brussels)

Supported by
Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, service du Théâtre

Thanks to
Kyung-A Ryu, Florence Crick, Baudouin de Jaer, Jacques-Yves Le Docte, Nathalie Borlée & eUtopia3, Rudi Bekaert, David Vranken, Caroline Voglaire, Distrac, Mario Bonatto, Yan de la Boucherie Moderne, Caroline Closon, Roger Bernat, Txalo Toloza Fernández, Elisabeth Schmidt, Daniel Levin Becker, Olivier Salon

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About Quarante-et-un: an interview with Transquinquennal

Why have you called your show Quarante-et-un?
It’s the 41st one. And it’s also a prime number with certain properties,one of the ones called a Sophie Germain prime. She’s a French mathematicianI greatly admire.

The number 41 bus has always been my favourite bus route. The bus stop right in the middle of the route is called “Bien-Faire”. When I think of the show and what I want it to be, that’s where I am.

So I imagine that it’s deliberate that the title has nothing to do with the show.
A title is like a first name. It doesn’t say anything about the person who has it and yet it’s what you call them. Let’s agree that this show is called Quarante-et-un and that that’s what we’ll be calling it from now on. And let’s say no more about it.

What is the nature of the relationship offered to the audience?
Each show I offer tries to be a specific theatrical experience for the audience. I try to ensure that the audience is intellectually active.

What does that mean?
Each member of the audience understands that it’s the relationship they construct with the show that constitutes the show’s “meaning”, or rather the meaning of the show for them. I try not to dominate the audience; I try to have a relationship with them as an equal.

Lists can often be found in your shows in a way that is as universal as it is unusual.
All of Transquinquennal’s work up to now can be considered like a list. That’s what the title Quarante-et-un makes us think of. In Transquinquennal’s work, one thing does not imply another, one scene is not necessarily or only the consequence of the previous scene. Things just follow on from one another. In this sense, you could say that each show is a list and that the stylistic device I use is parataxis.

It’s quite an unusual stylistic device.
Not at all. Reality initially appears to be parataxis. A juxtaposition of elements. Without any relationship between them. Or not explicit ones anyway. You can imagine the meaning, or a meaning, for each of the parts of a show, but the meaning of the whole escapes us like a trout or a bar of soap you’re trying to catch with two hands. The audience attempts to project meaning onto the list from the place and moment where they find themselves, but they have to rethink this “meaning” each time the list is finished. I hope that once they’ve left the theatre the audience will continue to write this list according to the rules I’ve established. A little like my children who continue to count yellow cars although I haven’t played this game with them for a long time. A game that never ends.

So all of it is just a game?
A serious game. Play is the greatest vehicle for learning.

What will be specifically questioned in Quarante-et-un?
On each occasion my work is also a reflection about my work. Each time I’m trying to change my viewpoint about what I do. Otherwise I get bored. I realised that I’d never considered it from an aesthetic angle.

What do you mean?
Well, on each occasion I question lots of aesthetic choices of course. But I’ve never really asked the question of whether it’s beautiful or not, and what that conceals. Generally, I never tackle things from this angle. This time that’s what I wanted to ask myself.

And of course the audience will take part in this questioning.
Obviously. They will inevitably end up having a position about whatthey find “beautiful” and why.

They will probably not always agree with you.
That’s what I hope. The last straw would be to reach consensus.

And will it be a beautiful show?
Let’s start by saying “Quarante-et-un is a beautiful show”. And immediately it challenges this question.

Aren’t you afraid of redundancy?
Redundancy is part of the definition of “beautiful”. Like pleonasm. Is something really beautiful if you don’t describe it as such?

Do people have the right to find any old thing beautiful?
But this question presupposes that a first question would be “what does any old thing mean?” Which brings us back to the first question: what is beautiful?

I’ll put it differently. Is it morally acceptable to take delight in horrible shows?
Are you referring to a personal experience or is it a rhetorical question?

I watched a baby cry on stage for 20 minutes…
It’s difficult to push the limits of an audience’s comfort zone.

So do you consider provocation as an aesthetic choice?
Most shows, including mine, do not come from people who are convinced by this. I’ve been trying for years – perhaps in vain – to leave this diabolical chain of events behind.

So it’s about criticising yourself even more, by exploring it further, more radically…
I start from the principle that reality is structured like a language and that my work is to articulate this language. Not so long ago I understood or came up with the hypothesis that any social criticism is destined to fail if I’m happy to tack my own language onto the language spoken by authority.

So you want to denounce and “criticise” the world…
You can’t denounce anything from the outside, you have to take the form of what you want to criticise in advance, or at least curl up in it. Imitation can be subversive, even more so that some head-on, opposing discourses that only assume the stance of subversion. In his “Marxism”, Louis Althusser said that real criticism is a criticism of reality through reality itself existing. Interpreting the world is not enough, you have to transform it.

Saying what’s “beautiful” is a critical stance. Implicitly, it’s saying what is ugly.

Don’t you see that there are two elements coming together that, throughout western history, have been associated with reflections on art: the Beautiful and the Good, aesthetic beauty and moral beauty?
It’s beautiful to be honest and inspire compassion… but this search for beauty expresses the rejection of death, illness, aging. A negation of death. Visible beauty becomes the mark of “living life”.

The audience’s partiality for the beautiful would be a way of escaping a fear of death … but don’t we say “a beautiful ending”?
I’ve always found it interesting – whatever scientific value they may have – that near-death experiences have often staged the potential dead person floating away from the body, like a spectator of his own death. The spectator’s position is perhaps indissociable from the emotion of the beautiful.

In Quarante-et-un, it’s the spectator who will be “sitting pretty”…
Cynicism is considered to be a short cut to philosophy. Does the spectatorhave an artistic sense? Does the spectator have a moral sense?What does the spectator think of what he or she sees, of what he or sheis watching? And what if that has an influence on the show itself? Theseare questions we can ask ourselves, but especially that the spectator canask of himself.

The spectator… Are you again opposing the idea of audience as a group?
A “show” as I devise it is neither individual nor collective; it only exists between the two, the encounter that is the start of any story.

Our encounter.
And the one with the spectator reading this.

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Transquinquennal hates theatre, and that’s why it performs. With or without text, high-tech or low-tech, alone or in collaboration, we create shows that are like us, yet no two shows are alike. The spectator and the relation that we create with the latter are always at the core of our preoccupations. We work collectively, obstinately and with pleasure, in Brussels and elsewhere, since 1989. Transquinquennal at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts

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