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The French Revolution is in full swing. The country is paralysed by an economic crisis, fear, xenophobia and increasing bouts of violence. In the theatre, a group of parliamentarians convene to debate the bedrock of their new society: democracy. Making his Dutch debut at the Holland Festival, the French director Joël Pommerat is known in his native country for his gripping, topical theatre productions. In Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis, his crowning achievement so far, Pommerat explores how the French Revolution laid the foundations for the modern Europe. Making its history as relevant and urgent as the politics and revolutions of our own time, he turns political theatre into meaningful drama.
Festivalfocus: Edges of Europe
During the first six months of this year the Netherlands holds the Presidency of the European Union. But what is left of the dream of European unity? At the Holland Festival international artists present a series of performances focusing on current European issues and exploring this changing continent.
The festival’s opening performance by Estonian directors Ene-Liis Semper and Tiit Ojasoo Die Stunde da wir nichts voneinander wußten shows the diversity and tensions of modern Europe. And in their film Ash and Money they focus on the phenomenon of political populism. Directors Milo Rau (The Dark Ages), Joël Pommerat (Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis), Wael Shawky (Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala) and Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha delve into Europe’s past, exploring the effect of some of its history’s darkest chapters. From the heart of Europe, the collective God’s Entertainment stages a test about chauvinism, which is causing the European dream of unity to falter. The Dutch theatre company Wunderbaum responds to European issues in its project The New Forest. A large Syrian orchestra for Arabic music will reunite for a special concert in Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn and Guests. Artists may not be able to change the world, but they can change the way we look at it.
In his latest play Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis French director and theatremaker Joël Pommerat dives into the history of the French Revolution. His story is based on the events of 1789, when the French people overthrew the monarchy and took matters into their own hands. What drove these individuals to rise en masse against the power of the king?
What were the consequences for them, for their country and for Europe?
Pommerat has described Ça ira as a dive into the heart of a political and human history which laid the foundations of contemporary society. His focus is on the process of what makes ordinary people, individuals, unleash a revolution. To him, that's much more interesting than the familiar story of the famous leaders of the revolution.
'The issues at hand are incendiary in 2015,' wrote the Financial Times in its review of the 4 hour-long play. 'Austerity, investors fleeing the country, the legitimacy of a government acting against its people’s wishes (…) Ça ira has the allure of a canary in the coal mine that is currently Europe. The only worry is that too few people will see it.
Joël Pommerat, who formed his Compagnie Louis Brouillard in 1990, sees the theatre as a place to explore and experience life. According to him, nothing is set in stone; our outlook on the world is in large part determined by our imagination, our views and beliefs. As a result, the Compagnie Louis Brouillard focus on perceptions in their performances, those of the actors as well as the audience. Themes such as politics and innermost feelings frequently recur, because Pommerat sees them as part of life – people do not know the boundaries, the origins and the limits, of the world they're put; they're always in the dark. At the same time, it's the dark which allows the imagination to emerge, and it's the imagination which is at the centre of Pommerat's work. His performances are intimate yet spectacular, rich with images and sensations, music, sound, light and dark. From the uncertain darkness which is at the core of every scene, light is cast on our existence – until a new darkness falls.
Author and stage director Joël Pommerat (1963, Roanne, France) discovered his passion for theatre at secondary school, influenced by his French teacher. Instead of becoming a teacher, as his father would have liked, he moved to Paris to become an actor. At nineteen, he was accepted at the Théâtre de la Mascara in the village of Nogen l'Artaud just outside of Paris.
However, four years later he decided that acting was not for him and took up writing. In 1990, Pommerat started his own company Louis Brouillard (a fictitious character – the first name is taken from his dad and the surname means 'fog' in French, which is a reference to his continuous theatrical explorations and an ironic nod to the brothers Lumière and the Théâtre du Soleil). He created his first productions with the Théâtre de la Main d’Or in Paris. In 2003 he gathered a group of seven actors with the idea to collaborate for a longer time – forty years in fact – and together develop a body of work. Most of them are still with him now. His collaboration with light and set designer Éric Soyer dates back to 1997 – together they have developed into masters of theatre lighting. Pommerat writes all of his material himself, in parallel with the rehearsal and design process. Discussing and improvising with his actors, he slowly finds the right form for his words.
Since 1997, Pommerat and his company have been supported by the Théâtre Brétigny and the Théâtre Paris-Vilette. They have been touring since 2001. Pommerat started making a name for himself with his performances Au monde and Le petit chaperon rouge (both in 2004). His breakthrough in France came with his first production at the Avignon Festival, Les Marchands (The Merchants), winning him the Grand prix de littérature dramatique (Grand Prize for Best Playwright).
Pommerat worked with various theatres in France. At the invitation of Peter Brook he was artist in residence at the Paris Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord from 2007 to 2010. Since 2010, Pommerat was a guest artist at the Paris l’Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe and at the Théâtre national de Belgique in Brussels. In 2014, he joined a group of artists in the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers. Between 2010 and 2015 he also worked as a director at the Théâtre national de Belgique in Brussels. One of the highlights in his recent work has been Ma Chambre Froide (2011) at the l'Odéon-Théâtre de L’Europe, which won him two Molières (one for best living French playwright and one for best theatre company) as well as the French theatre critics' Grand Prix. That same year, he also staged one of his best children's performances, Cendrillon, a modern retelling of the Cinderella story. In 2013 at l’Odéon, Pommerat staged La Réunification des deux Corées, in which the audience were seated either side of a long narrow corridor, witnessing twenty ambiguous stories of love relationships on the verge of breaking down.
- a performance by
- Joël Pommerat
- set, light
- Eric Soyer
- costume, image research
- Isabelle Deffin
- François Leymarie, Grégoire Leymarie
- Marion Boudier
- artistic collaboration
- Marie Piemontese, Philippe Carbonneaux
- assistant mise en scène
- Lucia Trotta
- historic advice
- Guillaume Mazeau
- technical director
- Emmanuel Abate
- construction decor
- Thomas Ramon, Artom en les ateliers de Nanterre-Amandiers
- lighting operator
- Julien Chatenet, Gwendal Malard
- sound engineer
- Grégoire Leymarie
- stage operator
- Jean-Pierre Costanziello,
Pierre-Yves Le Borgne
- Claire Lezer, Siegrid Pe
- Saadia Bentaïeb, Agnès Berthon, Yannick Choirat, Éric Feldman, Philippe Frécon, Yvain Juillard, Anthony Moreau, Ruth Olaizola, Gérard Potier, Anne Rotger, David Sighicelli, Maxime Tshibangu, Simon Verjans, Bogdan Zamfi
- Compagnie Louis Brouillard
- Nanterre-Amandiers, Centre Dramatique National, Le MANEGE-MONS/Scène transfrontalière de création et de diffusion, Mons 2015/Capitale européenne de la Culture, Théâtre National/Bruxelles, ESACT/Liège, Mostra Internacional de Teatro/Sao Paulo, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, MC2/Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, La Filature/Scène nationale de Mulhouse, Espace Malraux/Scène nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie, Théâtre du Nord/CDN Lille-Tourcoing-Nord-Pas-de-Calais, FACM/Festival théâtral du Val d’Oise, L’apostrophe/Scène nationale de Cergy-Pontoise et du Val d’Oise, Centre National des Arts/Ottawa, Théâtre National Populaire/Villeurbanne et Célestins/Théâtre de Lyon, Le Volcan/Scène nationale du Havre, Le Rive Gauche/Scène conventionnée de St Etienne du Rouvray, Bonlieu/Scène nationale d’Annecy, le Grand T, Théâtre de Loire-Atlantique/Nantes
- with support by