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Playwrights Corner


Authors' Notes

Joël Pommerat
© Elisabeth Carecchio
Je tremble (1) | Joël Pommerat
Theatre that is both anthropological and poetic*

« In a world where “art” is practically a dirty word – and “dramatic arts” even more so – there are playwrights who still proclaim a need to write and a fierce determination to speak out and communicate. Since 1990 Joël Pommerat has been one of those trailblazing playwrights, someone who has taken the road less travelled, ignoring fashions and insisting on his own independence and the right to the kind of “urgent necessity” invoked by Vincent Van Gogh. Pommerat has embarked on a true artistic path of discovery, creating an authentic « body of work » with the Compagnie Louis Brouillard since the early ‘90s when he decided to write and stage his own plays, such as some illustrious predecessors Shakespeare and Molière, not to mention our contemporaries Jean-Luc Lagarce and Olivier Py.

From that vantage point he presents
Je Tremble (1), a new stage on the path of his collective adventure.
The audience is invited to a cabaret, to watch a series of numbers, to laugh, smile and groan before this display of humankind that ranges from the wonderful to the pathetic, the laughable to the tragic. This is our everyday reality being talked about, the world of showbiz shown on stage in a traditional cabaret style which slowly veers off on a different tangent. Instead of watching “the bearded lady”, “the comedian” – coarse or not – and ”the conjurer”, you see “the sorry-looking lady”, “the richest man in the world” and “the man who didn’t exist”. While it is disturbing, Joël Pommerat’s new work retains its appeal, placing the spectator at the centre of one of the major contradictions we face at the start of the 21st century: how to reconcile our fascination with images and the need to confront “true” reality outside the context of illusory images.

This has been Pommerat’s approach as a playwright from the beginning – writing so that bodies and voices could appropriate the words and make them resonate in a way that confronts the spectator with their truth, sometimes their violence, and always their power. One has the feeling that every word has been chosen and every phrase constructed with great precision. In
Je Tremble (1) the playwright seems to take on the challenges of a more fragmented text, inherent in the satirical-political-poetic cabaret genre, as well as a tableau structure which he had already experimented with in previous shows, especially Les Marchands and Au Monde. The precise language in the series of tableaux is mirrored by the actors’ equally precise gestures, in an attempt to approach as intimately as possible the characters as they move about the voyeuristic world of the stage. This is probably the essential characteristic of writer-director Pommerat’s work – his mastery of the stage, precise construction and demanding aesthetic in which light and sound are also involved in expressing the spoken word, all of which nurtures and enriches the audience’s reverie rather than hindering it. In a certain manner, Joël Pommerat tears away the curtain of illusion, and constantly, drawing us closer to our own reality.

Pommerat is a storyteller, a writer of fables, of short stories, a dreamer, a poet of the present and future who rejects didactic theatre and looks for what is “sensitive”, focusing on the “physical” and his right to use narrative form (a right often abused on our stages). He is a moralist who tries to unmask all those who hide the evil of their own reality under the greasepaint and disguise of the spectacle. He employs the spectacle of theatre in order to confront the fraudulent spectacle of images which bombard us daily; he uses cathartic poetic images to destroy manipulative and anaesthetizing images, and deliberate shams to expose covert ones.

This is the purpose of Joël Pommerat’s writing – talking about today’s world without resorting to binary reductions; “telling stories without slipping into anecdote”.

  Philippe Heinen,
27 October 2007

* from the programme for Je Tremble (1) at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord

Je tremble (1) got a Fonds sacd 2007 support.

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