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Authors' Notes

Karin Serres
© Bertrand Couderc
LABOO7 Théâtre Café | In Actes du Théâtre 45 (December 2010)
In Good Company... by Karin Serres

(a look back at 3 days in London, where I was invited by the Company of Angels to attend the Theatre Cafe, a festival revolving around contemporary playwriting for young people)

« The three days spent in London in October 2010 were both prolific and profound. Why? Probably because quality naturally leads to more quality. By concentrating on subtle and demanding work in the preparatory stages, the organizers sowed the seeds for success and originality for their European festival.

The actors were the focus of the three days and of my enthusiasm. They were totally committed in all the readings and performances, showing enormous energy and subtlety. It was truly a pleasure to see them three or four times a day in such different styles and roles from one play to another, displaying a mastery of the kind of physical presence that keeps a reading open-ended. The quality of the acting resonated with the subtle and finely tuned dramaturgical work carried out to present the plays to young people from various countries, stage them for professionals from all over Europe and reveal them in all their otherness.

Moved by the quality of the acting and direction, the playwrights then responded to questions with sincerity and generosity. The public discussions with their translators, the directors and Chris Campbell, dramaturge at the Royal Court, opened up new areas of profound reflection. That depth led to even finer thoughts and questions from the audience, conscious of experiencing something rare. The spirit of warm curiosity and intelligence in every sense of the word continued into the break without stopping.

It all flowed from a true artistic gamble involving quality and commitment: quality of the work on stage, as well as the plays chosen and translated into English, living proof of the wealth of contemporary playwriting because they were truly different, written by different playwrights working in different cultural contexts. Otherness here was both a driving force and a space for artistic exchange. And it was a real exchange, with echoes and ricochets between the plays intimately connected by crucial questions that went beyond the framework of youth theater: death, violence and brutality and how they are represented, the relationship between man and animals, imaginary worlds as survival weapons, the hidden meanings behind words.

It was in this breeding ground for today's youth theater, progressing all over Europe, that eight episodes of LABOO7's* multilingual and multi-authored theater series
Ank! Ang! were read in English for the finale. Ten young actors danced around, covered with feathers and wearing chalk make-up, in an inventive montage full of powerful imagery and a feeling of open space, to a full house that gave them a warm round of applause. Six of the nine playwrights had come to London from five different countries. The discussion that followed the reading confirmed our intuition that this multilingual collective work (still in progress) really made sense in its form and substance, closely involving the translators in this nomadic writing.

With the Company of Angels and their Theatre Cafe festival I discovered a new European space for thoughts on the theater and artistic exchanges that was intelligent, open-minded, rare and centered around young audiences. I hope that its resources will continue to expand - in order to preserve its inherent underlying quality and enable it to continue to shine forth for a long time with no age limits or borders.

Ank ! Ang ! (I'm a wild goose), created in 2007, tells the story of humans of all ages who have invisible wings and cross Europe's skies in multilingual flocks. Each episode was written in his mother tongue by a playwright from a different country, then translated - for now - into French, English and Swedish.

  Karin Serres,
17 November 2010
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