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«Your breath has got a hint of solitude» says Marquise de Mertei (Isabelle Huppert) in her first monologue. In Robert Wilson’s performance, desolating solitude equals death. «Now we are all alone» – this phrase is repeated in different tones, modality and timbres. Mechanics of the repetition and integrity of the geometrical principle that used to develop the scenography, positions of the bodies, hair styles and costume profile paradoxically create an emotional wave that no-one can escape
Photo © 2009 Pascal Victor / BAM
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The stage area, divided diagonally by the screen, becomes triangular. On a triangular sofa, Marquise is floating around, as if being born to act in Wilson’s theater. Robert Wilson gravitates towards the actors whose bodies can be used as architectural elements on the stage. Isabelle Huppert, who is both «fire and ice» according to Wilson’s words, feels exactly right - both with her voice and body - how to act out abstraction. Like a perfectly tuned instrument, she sets the tone for all the characters. Her acting is a combination of a spatial and color interaction of the light, rhythm, postures and movements of the body.

Photo © Pascal Victor / BAM
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Geometrical figures in the performance rhyme with the emotional triangles that come up just to be turned down like some banal things, when it comes to confluence and absorption - the love where women and men’s attributes trade places, and where temptation goes hand in hand with devastation. Between Viscount de Valmont (Ariel Garcia-Valdes) and Marquise de Mertei Huppert there is a subtle game being played, where they are acting out different parts and teach lessons to the others, punishing them for their wasted hopes, excessive fantasies and prejudices. In this game it makes no difference who will seduce virgin Cécile de Volanges - on the contrary, the pretentiousness of the seduction is more tangible in de Mertei’s performance, performed by Huppert. (It resembles the «Kabuki» not only because of its theatrical style which looks like a dance routine, but also as a theatrical action in which women play male roles). Throwing away the crutches of their own illusions, Valmont and Mertei acclaim word cascades immersing into a gloaming of feelings, characters’ playing and abstractions. Everything is possible; everything is acceptable if the theatrical style is flawless!

Photo © Pascal Victor / BAM

It was the first play of Heiner Müller that changed Wilson’s life entirely – the director said it in his farewell speech to the writer. They first met in the ‘70s, but it was not until the ‘80s when their friendship blossomed, while they were working at the Köln part of Müller’s «The Civil War». This production was followed by the performance «Hamlet Machine» for The New-York University in 1986, as well as, the prologue for «Description of a Picture». For Wilson, Müller is a playwright that gives a director a lot of freedom. No wonder, according to Wilson, «Müller’s texts are strong and indestructible. One could place them in the middle of the highway, on the moon, or in a swimming pool in Hollywood, and they would lose nothing - like rocks». Müller liked the way Wilson staged his plays largely because Wilson views stage time as an artificial variable. In this performance, the artificial time that passes through the artificial space loses its absolute variable, but Wilson stays true to Müller’s directions: time of the action – the salon before the French Revolution, or a bunker after The Third World War.

Photo © Pascal Victor / BAM

Müller’s twelve-page extract out of Choderlos de Laclos’s «The Dangerous Liaisons» - is a philosophical- culturological interpretation of the theses of the novel which is reinforced by the historical knowledge of the 20th century. «The Quartette» is a play-for-two; but in fact, the text is acted out by two actors who play four characters. In Wilson’s version there are five characters on the stage. «Who is this fifth?» Müller asked Wilson. «It is you», said Wilson. That dialogue happened long ago when Wilson had staged Müller’s «The Quartette» on Stuttgart’s stage. Later, Wilson came back to this text with American actors (American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in 1987) and twenty years after that – with French actors. In this last version, Wilson sets the performance within the borders of one prologue and eight scenes, but who is this fifth one in the performance in Théâtre de l’Odéon?! Who is this fifth running around on the stage, hair grey and messy, looking like a «furious composer»?! He might be just a random element like Chekhov’s passer-by in «The Cherry Orchard»; some mistake, reminding us that not all things have the geometrical symmetry in our life, like in Wilson’s performances.

In Wilson’s «The Quartette» the sequence of the figurative forms, symbolism of colors and light form the significance and become the variety of «intuitive» cognition of the dramaturgic text. Zones of light and shadows, lines and rhythms are more active means of articulation than the verbal language for his Theatre. The empty space contains simple transformations: a white line «tears» the blackness and a white light floods the space where the next moment, in one click, it sinks back into the darkness. The musical score is created by Michael Galasso and its rhymes are a theme for another individual text.

The American first night of «The Quartette» was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) within «Next Wave» festival boundaries, where the performance of Théâtre de l’Odéon meets its audience year after year. Théâtre de l’Odéon (Odeon-Theatre de l'Europe) is one of the five national French theatres that are directly supported by the Ministry of Culture. In 1990, «l'Odeon» became the Theatre of Europe. Its mission is to revitalize the European Theatre in collaboration with the leading theatrical world figures, breathing new life into it.
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Пятница, 15 Февраля 2019
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