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mercredi 10 avril 2013

The Theater of Julien Gué

A poetics of the image

In the heart of the land of Avignon, a cult place of all the scenic boldness, the cultural Association “La Licorne et le Dragon” (The Unicorn and the Dragon) invite us to speak about “boards passion”. This cultural association, already turned to the Polynesian authors of Litterama’ohi, makes the “detour” (sic) via the theater of Julien Gué.

It’s a strange situation to talk about a practice which settles only in acts! Between Occitan language and reo Tahiti*, Julien Gué is a nomad of the stage. We inaugurate “a freeze frame” for this evening, as a friendly sport. The public is scattering between Provençal, newcomers in the region and witnesses more or less freshly unloaded from Polynesian islands: the impressions from a non-identified theater, anchored in Pacific Ocean, were going to cross.

The antipodes gathered by magic. The illusion, this scenic agreement is sharing; but by non-conventional ways. As Julos Beaucarne, Julien Gué whispers in a post he’s “this minstrel, who steps onto the stage and makes dream with the wind”. “Julien Gué, poetics of the image” announces straightaway in these few words.

Julien Gué and the ephemeral
               If  the recent creations forged in theater-workshops by the detainees of the prison of Nuutania (Tahiti) appear in two numbers of the review Litterama’ohi (on 2009 and 2011), if the Tahitian television broadcasts at the end of cycle of his next to last performance It snowed in Tuamotu in its entirety (on the night of Christmas 2011), if the archives of Paris-Beach (2006) mentions The Frangipani Tree of Celestine Hitiura Vaite without specifying anything, if the Marquesas Islands remember certain Perfumes of  Silence approaching for Gauguin Year (2003): with the final salute of the artistic team, the set of the ephemeral gets it all wrong again.

Nothing is more intense but also more temporary than this factory of living images. From the Company Aliné@ (2002-2003), under the banister of Te Fare Tauhiti Nui (Community arts Center of Papeete) and  of  Raiatea, to the writing-workshops of The Blowers of Words (Lorraine 2011), as between  the walls of the high school of Taaone: “a small stone for the theater is put for the generations of  tomorrow”, comments a participant of Provençal public.

The writing-workshop of The Blowers of Words
So why do we center on the image? Because the theatrical image is a succession of snapshots, emotional power of which is engraved us and leaves its undefinable imprints… because the director is the exclusive work-master… because, the theater thwarts the present moment… because it displays with our mental representations. Drawn from an open imagination as far as the eye can see, approached by a quite personal point of view, the theater of Julien Gué offers us a panorama of the most prosperous by disorienting us. We are in the country of flowers!

So why do we express a poetics? Because the way of delivering them to us, of wining us over it, is the fruit of an art, of a meshed composition which drives on the comedian, the attitudes which he conveys and spaces out that he summons with him… and because the lavished performance is not linear but submerges us by impressions.

His purpose is to affect our senses, to communicate with us. This transmission passes by a story in which we fall or what we reject. It implies us. Its outcome questions us, satisfies us or frees us.

 When the music is going to mean
How does Julien Gué manage to request our complicity of spectator? This specific symbiosis which he knows how to operate, he owes it to the profession but also to the personality who leaves nothing at random. A director as a chaser: he shows uncluttered and clear works. And how much poignant is in the statements of the spectators!

The internal landscape: poetics of the space
            Whatever is the approached text, the producing theme of text, the dramatic text engendered by the actors, Julien Gué registers it in the current events. It is just like his opening of spirit, of his course, in the size of the planet where everything rings in echo.

Africa of his childhood and his later raids, France where he formed and produced, lead him to the antipodes. In the present, it’s on Polynesian culture, on its propensity in the oracy that he has feed almost thirteen years ago. It’s in continuity with the movement of “identity and cultural revival” (introduced by Henri Hiro) that he begins the direction of the play: The Perfumes of Silence (2003), in close collaboration with its author, Jean-Marc Tera’ituatini Pambrun.

           The putting in space of the play is a real “crossing over the mirror”. The characters pull their reality from the paintings of Gauguin (in particular “Who are we?”1897). Exceeding the painting where the painter had thickened them, they appropriate their full identity consciousness. The pictorial image is thus inverted. It knocks down the exotic clichés of the Western World.

The space of the orero and the space of arioi.
Likewise, he means his point of view by the scenography of the tale It snowed in Tuamotu (2011): the scenic writing hold a symbolic place with the character of the storyteller who takes a fixed space. Such a demiurge, it dominates the area of game where the actors (arioi*) are playing. He attributes to the teller, her dimension of messenger and speaker, by referring to the social role with which was provided ancestral orero*. Only she addresses directly the public. Associated with le musicians who punctuate the involvement, the text, as sequences and situations, she delegates her powers to “the Spirit of snow”. Small sprite, covered by the invisibility (Magic! Magic), it’s the physical link between spaces. He endows the characters of feelings, breathes them the life, assisted with his task by the dancers who are his emanations.

There the speech of the direction intervenes: feel reassured, it’s dumb and in only load of the director. Either the “Spirit of snow” appeared late as a dramatic turn of events, according to the initial tale of Rai Chaze; or Julien Gué emphasizes the real upheaval, the drowning of the father, the engine of all the transfer  of the system of the characters. The spirit of Christmas, it’s this festivity of the childhood and the revival, to oneself, to the others. The stepmother become a widow, following the example of this climatic disturbance which still never occurred on atolls, goes out of her individualism and offers this precious gift to the orphan: the welcome of a real family.
Nothing is innocent

“Complex!” did you said? In its conception only: first at all on stage, everything is fluid, anything heavy with Julien Gué. Question of art: the aesthetics of the direction, Julien Gué knows it! The management of such parameters participates of the internal logic of the quizmaster. The public delights of delusions. Levy-Strauss so describes this magic function which subsists in us from the childhood, doesn’t it? Is a children’s story or an adults’ drama? Everybody waits for catharsis, resolution of the tensions. Julien Gué certainly deepens the source text. Of course, his vision is one interpretation among others.  And in this measure, he distinguishes his “text of direction” from the initial narrative. For him, in any sincerity and consciousness, the words take flesh: the stage represents the space of the human condition.

The metamorphoses of the set: the multiple image
On the contrary the play area is simplified, skinned, just marked out by some signs (vegetables: tapa, aïto), reduced to its simplest unit. Because it lives and is livened by the game of the actors, it evolves as one of them. It’s not only light which gives it life, sense and value, but its manipulation or its investigation by the actors. Everything put on stage serves relay of the meaning. The unity of the show bases on these analogies between human being and environment. Some white sand and a pontoon (It snowed in Tuamotu) to appoint the ocean and the island, the ground and the snow, the pearl-farm and the base line towards beyond. Tale, short story, essay, playlet and play, follow the same principle of the symbolism of the correspondences.

Games of boards (2003) cheek the dodging, fast, rhythmical and the abrupt changes of tone between every sketch. The characters create their own universe with a blind with swiveling small strips. They embody the set gesturally, visually, aurally: cut, insist and peel the mechanics of the theater. Innocence, lack of realism, unusual skids and use of the pantomime are leitmotivs of the play. Epitaph (2008) represented in broad daylight in the yard of the penitentiary of Nuutania, locates the positions, with its benches-boats, its benches-low walls, etc. Globally, the set doesn’t enclose them in a mausoleum. As a brush feature, it’s suggestive: “this is not an apple…” (Magritte).

The theater in prison: to bring down the walls…
The set is springboard and in the service of the play. It doesn’t lock itself in its auto-pondering. The time is its shroud. A clean sweep by way of paddle and the vessel of the scene takes the sea (Epitaph). Why to report also the evocation of mother-of-pearls, descriptive moment peculiar to the tale? Otherwise to invert (once again) the weight of the common opinion: jewel of the depths, the pearl deserves; from second accessory, it becomes subject. Heart of the play, a sociological comment: the pearl oyster culture isn’t an activity divested of dangers. The role of mother-of-pearls is kept by the dancers. Also, the director plays on transverse cultural images: the himene ru’au*, funeral lament, is accompanied with shadows (as in Nô theater), complementing with images mourners of the circumference of Mediterranean Sea.

The poetics of the actor
In facts, actors and space are closely connected, coloring both together. It’s this weaving between living and material which confers relief and rhythm, symbiosis or antagonism. Visible and sound images of the bodies, without words have a main and vital interest in the overall scheme of the show.

A musical sequence, enriching the role of Hei, girl of the cruel mother, doesn’t stop posting her narcissism: a parade of fineries registered on the background of the other characters. Facing each other, the dancers are her images-mirror. If the movement belongs to the choreographer, its feature returns to the director. The scenic language is fundamentally physical and so expresses actor and dancers merged. It cannot involve as an interlude. “The dance of the pride”, scene added by Julien Gué, doesn’t miss to give a wink to the cultural practices globalized by the splendor and the appearance.

“It snowed in Tuamotu”, the first stammering…
He minimizes the quest of the jewel to target on the innocence of the central figure, whose the father declares: “because in you is a valuable pearl”. With the portraits of both sisters, the double sense of “pearl” is drawn. The actor is a pearl for Julien Gué; the play is a work of internalizing: it implodes or explodes to chiseled, refined, crystalline image there. It delivers the feeling to the pure state.

A quality to be
What is his modus operandi? Reconcile the techniques of the game, but especially send his actors to realize at best an act of full communication with the public, by means of a character. His approach is centering on the potentialities of each. It leans on their personal commitment.

Who puts oneself set back, risks to spoil in the collective fulfillment. The evolution is made in a personalized and collective dynamics. The actors give evidence of his reassuring care, this constant of the request which moves them, of the anxiety of best which destabilizes them and strengthens them at the same time. Is it because the actors really take care and make a work on themselves that they reach a game quality?

A rehearsal hall in Tahiti…
The example is convincing with both creations developed in their entirety by the detainees of Nuutania: the first one, Epitaph, grieves to a past of brigand; the second, Look at Well…, forward-looking, lavishes its advices to the rising generation. Since the writing of the text until the representation, the ride spends by the acquisition, on the heap, tools of language (mixing between Tahitian French and reo Tahiti) as about the physical language and the common management of the scene.

The final poem, The Ballad of the Hung of Villon (translated in reo Tahiti) is scandered by hakka.  The onset of Look at well… is built in verse free. The body movements of the activities are choreographed, valuing the daily task. The dialogue, supported by various crossed leitmotivs, progresses in chorus, to the appeal of a coryphaeus-orero. Text of a surprising quality!

Ta’ata for dreaming…
If the target of this workshop of reintegration is reached (self-management of the conflicts, accomplished program, diligence), the novice-actors appropriated other experiences. At first adopted as mean to escape from the dullness (and to win some remission of the sentence), the workshop not only helped them to take some distance, to put in perspective, to confide other, but also to come true, to blossom. Imagining, putting on a role, in the direction of actor of Julien Gué, it is to live, to exist completely.

The theme of the escape that they chose, its realization really freed them from prison reflexes. They acquire humor, whim, but especially the covering of the feelings, their sharing, their surplus. Real challenge, he will make them pass of the rediscovery of the human values buried in their display. The emotion will overflow from the scene to the rare assistance. Walls and waves are not alone which “remember it”!

Outline of the theater of Julien Gué in Polynesia  
Insatiably, Julien Gué worries about what establishes the pivot of his theater, what it’s about professional, about amateur, about school frame or about prison reintegration: the human being is a priority of his problem and of his artistic direction’s fulfillment. He wants to make the other one exist, the actor, beyond the everyday life which he lives. It isn’t only that the spectator who can dream. Besides his partners, he boards on the construction of a common utopia.

Would be the theater this dream of human body? Is the theatrical representation an idea of all life, both realistic and utopian vision?

arioi*: acrobats, actorsof the Polynesian ancestral entertainments.
Himene Ru' au*: variety of hymns the music of which is inspired by the former European songs; the very slow and very beautiful melody is difficult.

An article of Monak
Translated from French by Monak

Read the second part of this article by clicking here:  "Julien Gué et le théâtre : un rêve ou un engagement ?"
To learn more about Julien Gué’s artistic work, by reading so:
Le théâtre en prison : L'évasion recommandée !

Copyrights Monak and Julien Gué. Ask for the authors’ agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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