Words must hit hard, harder than the bullet of a Kalashnikov.

Shéda

Dieudonné Niangouna, Les bruits de la rue

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The Congolese director Dieudonné Niangouna creates theatre in which the word has the strength of a lion and the ferocity of a panther. His words are designed to hit hard, harder than the bullet of a Kalashnikov. In Shéda, Niangouna employs his expressive, hybrid and vivid language to create a place of refuge after an ‘apocalypse’. The characters gathering there embody fallen gods, heroes from bygone times, who have returned as ghosts or in dreamlike apparitions. In Shéda, they try to redeem their humanity, while sharing their personal histories and their memories of the end of the world.
Programme book

During the interval hot snacks will be sold

background information

There are three recurring themes in the work of the Congolese actor, writer, theatre maker and director Dieudonné Niangouna (Brazzaville 1976). They are fear, loneliness and the need for change – themes which were also very much present in his previous two productions, the raw and physical monologues Attitude Clando (2007) and Les Inepties volantes (2009). Both these plays were a cry for him to keep on living despite the infinitely deep wounds the war has caused him. Ninagouna maintains that our societies are constantly driven by these three principles, a trilogy of themes which has been present in his work for years, gradually becoming more prominent and now, after 12 years, having come to full fruition in his latest production Shéda. Niangouna started out as a street artist in the markets of Brazzaville, outside of the war wrecked theatres of the city. Today, he travels the world with his theatre company Les Bruits de la Rue. His homeland remains his main inspiration though, traumatised as it is by years of civil war and the legacy of French colonialism. Niangouna’s words are a response to this long and violent history, so they must hit hard, harder than the bullets of a Kalashnikov.

Shéda is a ‘choral odyssey’ with twelve African and European actors, including Niangouna himself, and two musicians. Part theatre, part music, it’s an orchestrated stream of words, thoughts and images which are fused harmoniously in a layered theatrical fresco. It’s about life and death, violence and love, wisdom and madness, hope and despair.

 

The characters embody fallen gods from time immemorial who after an apocalyptic event have returned as ghosts or in dreamlike apparitions to this dried-up world of today. The story is like a collection of time-bound voices, the dialogues revolving around their mutual physical and verbal conflicts. The monologues are like wild cries, as from a frightened animal hiding in its lair. In Shéda, Niangouna tells about the largest refugee camp in the world in Dabaab, about the cities of  Dolo Ado, Kismago, Mogadishu and Bosma, the mysterious ‘house of the cats’, exile and death, the omens of a prophetic cleansing ritual and the tragicomic mishaps of the Reverend Kampa. All these stories feature in Shéda. Niangouna: “I will make the audience howl with laughter, while it’s all very serious and really nothing to laugh about.”

In his work, Niangouna uses his expressive, hybrid and vivid language as a weapon to fight injustice. He uses his theatre to reflect the violence and the anger in the streets of Congo. He draws partly on the classic French language (his native tongue), the popular poetry of the Congolese writer Sony Labou Tansi and the traditional mythical stories of his people,  the Lari. Niangouna sees the theatre as a cosmic battleground, on which the gods can impact on the fate of the world. When he attempts to explain, he rather plays down the process through which his ideas get their theatrical form. Niangouna: “I keep it simple. I just put some people in the space. And then they can fight amongst each other to prove that they are worthy to be called actors. In this way, everyone contributes in his or her own unique way.” At the Holland Festival Shéda will have its world premiere.

biographies

Dieudonné Niangouna (Brazzaville, 1976) is a Congolese actor, writer and director. He used to situate his work on the streets of Brazzaville, outside the war wrecked theatres, where he developed a new dramatic language. Now he is one of the most prominent innovators of African theatre. In 1997 with his brother Criss he formed the theatre group Les Bruits de la Rue, in order to reflect the violence and the anger on the streets of the Republic of Congo. His work is centred on a sense of urgency, inspired by the bloody civil war in his country and the history of French colonialism. In Congolese society it’s difficult to survive as a writer or an actor, so resistance is key. Aware that the language of drama is intended to be written, expressed and heard, Niangouna combines classical French, the popular and poetic language of the great Congolese writer Sony Labou Tansi and the language and oral tradition of the Lari people. In this way he has invented a French language that is generous and enriched. “A living language for the living,” according to Niangouna. Every year Dieudonné Niangouna organizes and directs the Mantsina-sur-Scène International Festival in Brazzaville, with provocative theatre,  contemporary dance, performances, seminars and debate. In 2005 Niangouna was one of the four African playwrights chosen for a residency at the renowned Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier and in 2007 he made a huge impression at the Festival d’Avignon with his monologue Attitude Clando. Since then he has been frequently associated with the festival in Avignon. This year, he will be artiste associé together with Stanislas Nordey.

Credits

author, stage director
Dieudonné Niangouna
scenography
Patrick Janvier
assistance to the scenografy
Ludovic Louppé, Papythio Matoudidi
light
Xavier Lazarini
sound
Christina Clar
costumes
Vélica Panduru
choreography, preparation of the fights
DeLaVallet Bidiefono
music and performed by
Pierre Lambla
Armel Malonga
production
Festival d’Avignon
Bonlieu Scène nationale d’Annecy
Holland Festival
IX Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires
la Comédie de Reims - CDN
with support by
Ferme du Buisson scène nationale de Marne-la-Vallée
Région Île-de-France
French Embassy Congo
French Institut in Brazzaville
Congolese Embassy in France
Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication – DRAC Île-de-France
TOTAL E en P Congo
Equatorial Congo Airlines
Institut Français dans le cadre du fonds d'aide à la production CIRCLES et du programme Afrique et Caraïbes en créations
Association Beaumarchais-SACD
Adami
Dieudonné Niangouna
cast
Laetitia Ajanohun
Marie-Charlotte Biais
Madalina Constantin
Pierre-Jean Etienne
Frédéric Fisbach
Wakeu Fogaing
Diariétou Keita
Abdon Fortuné Koumbha
Harvey Massamba
Mathieu Montanier
Criss Niangouna

This performance was made possible with support by