After I wrote and staged Atavisme, a production that led us on a tour from Brest (Western France) to Vladivostok in 2012, I wanted to tell in a burlesque and tragic way the Kafkaesque nightmare of the 1300 days we spent with our troupe in the pursuit of a dream. I wanted to relive those 3 years of a frantic itinerary in an hybrid show entitled On a fait tout ce qu’on a pu mais tout s’est passé comme d’habitude, a resolutely "contemp-fair-ary" production. In 2013, aSer the Villeneuve en Scène festival, I decided to make a unique production out of the two shows, "Trans-Siberian I am", in accordance with the movement of "living theatre" I aspire to defend.
"Living theatre" is a theatre that takes into account the present time. It draws its dramaturgy from the concerns of its contemporaries. It is a hybrid and instinctive form of theatre that replaces the catharsis at the centre of the attentive circle. It is based upon precision and spontaneity, generating an "active" rather than a "passive" audience. "Living theatre" tells a story which at different levels can be understood by every spectator, embracing at the same time the notion of the group as well. The concept lies in the production of shows – taking into account the reality of the city where they are performed – in relation to what people are familiar with and leading them to experience the unknown. This is made possible by the use of stage illusion in particular, a technique that has met the challenge of arousing popular enthusiasm for contemporary dramaturgy. This kind of theatre -mixing reality and fiction – is based on a highly naturalistic vision while attempting to sublimate the reality through fantasizing. This is a theatre where the one who receives, is never in a "comfort zone", a theatre that does not promote renewal but uniqueness.
Fenwick, a playwright, lives in Liberta with his wife. In July 2008, after his father died in a plane crash, Fenwick decided to embark on, what is according to him, the most ambitious travelling theatre adventure ever undertaken: a tour on the trans-Siberian from Brest to Vladivostok, performing a circus-theatre proposition every day, an artistic epic journey punctuated by 120 performances across the 15000 kilometers of Eurasia.
To achieve his project, Fenwick had to create a theatre company, collect a million euros, to look for partners, win the support of the institution and the "A office" (the highest cultural authority of the ministry).
Despite the chaotic succession of events, Fenwick managed to make his dream come true and produce a show that travelled from Brest to Vladivostok: Atavisme.
Atavisme – a production inspired by documentary theatre –covers the period of Jacques Mercier’s life when he was in jail at the beginning of the 80’s and a series of filmed interviews of his relatives I realized in 2008 in Brest. Transcribing Jacques Mercier’s life had been made possible by the descriptions and drawings from his diary. The singer wrote about a tour across the Soviet Union that he thought he was about to do. An immobile journey. Atavisme is a theatre production that refers to circus and music hall. The "characters" on stage exist in real life.
Fiction becomes reality, but can’t reality be fictional as well? What is the position of a spectator confronted with a dramatized account instead of a fictional story? What dissociates truth from illusion in a theatrical play? Atavisme tells about depths and drowning. About "indulging in wishful thinking". About the dreams we invent in order to survive. About stagnation and confinement. About doors opening onto walls. About silences and silences engendering silences. About straitjackets of the mind. About failures and unfulfilled desires, visions and voices. About those who have decided to re-invent their life in order to escape death death. ATAVISME is an ode to mythicization.
January 1983. Jacques Mercier is 47 years old. He writes, in jail, the last words in his diary: "Tomorrow, will be the final stage and last performance. I had never left the tip of Brittany before setting off to Russia. I won’t come back. I will find new high seas. In a few hours, I will be in Vladivostok."
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"Trans-Siberian I am"
Author and director : Philippe Fenwick
Associate director : Nathalie Conio
Philippe Arestan, Philippe Borecek, Philippe Fenwick, Hugues Hollenstein, Grit Krausse, Marine Paris, Sergueï Vladimirov, Nathalie Conio
With the collaboration of : Claudine Baschet, Simone Hérault and Muriel Piquart
Scenography : Philippe Fenwick and Felix Deschamps
Ombroscope and video designer : Hugues Hollenstein
Lighting designer : David Mossé
Sound designer : Romain Quartier
Costume designer : Magali Castellan
Stage manager and head of sound : Clara Marchebout
Head of lighting Lucie Delorme
Production - Co-production
Production Zone d'Ombre et d'Utopie (Zou) / K Samka
Co-production Théâtre National de Marseille, La Criée / Théâtre National de Nice, CDN Nice Côte d'Azur
Co-realisation/partnership Théâtre 13 Paris
Delegated production Le K Samka
With the support of La Gare Franche
With the participation of Grandes Tables Marseille
Writing residencies Le Fourneau, Centre National des Arts de la Rue à Brest / La Chartreuse, Centre National des Ecritures du Spectacle / L’académie Fratellini, Centre International des Arts du Spectacle / Les Bains Douches, Scène de Musiques Actuelles Paris / Lieux Publics
Co-production "Autour de Transsibérien je suis" La Friche Belle de Mai / Théâtre National de Marseille, La Criée / Lieux Publics
ZOU is supported by the city of Saint-Denis within an artist-in-residence program
Acknowledgements TGP Théâtre Gérard Philipe (Saint-Denis), Point éphémère (Paris), Arcadi, Théâtre 13 / Seine and Villeneuve en Scène Festival
Philippe Fenwick was awarded a grant by the CNL Centre National du Livre (French national Center of literature) to write the play.
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