After a sell-out run at the 2015 London International Mime Festival, Theatre Re presents a wordless tale about the power of imagination that blends together physical theatre, mime, sound, illusion and a beautifully lyrical live music score.
As an old blind man takes unsteady steps around a room, a story of love, courage, hope and unquenchable vision unfolds. Blind Man’s Song is a tale about one man’s rage against his world of darkness. Inspired by the paintings of Magritte, the dead-end world of Beckett and interviews with blind and visually-impaired people, it witnesses the power of the body to communicate without words.
Pleasance Dome (King Dome) from 6th August at 3:30pm.The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Guillaume Pige: It all began with a painting by Renée Magritte
entitled The Lovers and a mystery: why do the lovers, in the act of kissing, have their faces veiled?
Some suggested that it was because they are concealing something about themselves and that was the start of a big debate on what it was that they were hiding from our view.
But could we not imagine that the presence of the veil is there to lead the observer to a completely different world, a world above reality for instance (after all The Lovers is a surrealistic painting)?
In that world why could we not ask, what is the veil revealing rather than concealing?
What is it revealing about the lovers; they have no face, no eyes, no nose, no ears not even a mouth and yet they are kissing. What does it say about that kiss?
So in a way this production started with an object or a mask (the veil) and a mystery.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
That is a very good question because sometimes one might think that all of this almost becomes a very expensive hobby!
But in fact it is not.
We will be performing the show 25 times in a row for a wide variety of people and engage with audiences, professionals as well as with our peers. This, in itself, is already an invaluable experience and one of the best professional development opportunities.
We will meet and exchange with like-minded artists and theatre makers from across the UK and abroad. Future collaboration might emerge from these encounters.
We also hope to be able to tour Blind Man’s Song in 2016 and 2017 and start discussions with industry professionals and producers regarding the making of Theatre Re’s next project (in development in 2016).
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Blind Man’s Song is a very visual and musical piece of theatre, and in that sense the piece triggers a wide range of different emotions, ideas and even memories. We almost try to reach to the level of the unconscious.
I don’t have an exact description of what the show will trigger, but we promise to take the audience on a dreamlike journey travelling at the speed of memory to a place where some things become more visible in the dark.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
In 2012 we took our production of The Gambler to the Fringe. It went down really well and there was one comment that came back a lot especially from industry professionals and fellow theatre makers; and it was that we would benefit from working with a dramaturg.
But what is it that dramaturgs do? Especially since most of our work, does not start from a written text or a narrative and sometimes does not even include written text.
So without really knowing what to expect, I started collaborating with dramaturgs for the making of The Little Soldiers (EdFringe 2013) and Blind Man’s Song (EdFringe 2015).
It went extremely well and as a matter of fact I am already planning to collaborate with a dramaturg for the making of Theatre Re’s next piece.
What I have discovered is that, the role of the dramaturg seems to vary depending on the nature and the needs of the project, the dramaturg’s background and experience and the rest of the creative team.
So far the dramaturgs that I have collaborated with have helped with the coherence and the accessibility of the work. They helped with all the background work before getting into the rehearsal room, the research, the forgotten stories and the myth that will (or not) nourish the work of the creative team at different stages (and especially when the team is stuck).
They provided various sorts of raw material (paintings, sculptures, news, films, interviews, general knowledge et c.) that have later been used, processed and digested by the creative team. They helped with the framing of ideas and concepts at the beginning, during and at the end of the development period. They also helped with mapping out different routes, options and possibilities at key stages and facilitate the decision-making.
It almost feels like the dramaturg plays the role of a midwife, he or she is there to facilitate the birth. They are not the parents and they are not the doctors; they are the midwives.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
Etienne Decroux’s Corporeal Mime is at the basis of all the creative work of Theatre Re. I also really admire and feel very inspired by the work of Le Theatre de l’Ange Fou whose directors, Corinne Soum and Steven Wasson were the last assistants of Etienne Decroux and with whom I had the chance to train.
I look up to and am very influenced by the work and the teaching of Theatre Director Andrew Visnevski, who has been following and supporting my development for the past 8 years.
In terms of distant influences, through the reading of their books I feel very close and inspired by the work of actors and theatre directors such as Jean-Louis Barrault, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Copeau, Edward Gordon Craig and Jerzi Grotowski.
As for other artists outside of theatre practitioners (painters, sculptors, writers, poets, film makers, philosophers), I am curious of everything and everything can become an influence.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I can only describe what I have done so far and how it worked. It will probably keep changing and evolving as I keep making work. I really believe that the subject matter or the theme of the project, or the limitations that we decided to play with, dictate the way I am going about doing things.
Collaboration is definitely one of the key factors. I don’t do anything by myself, mostly because it is not much fun. Once I have an idea or am excited by something (and it does not take much) then I gather a team of collaborators from different background an expertise and I try to persuade them to join me on the adventure… and that is how it starts.
In a way it is as if I was bringing a little bit of food, or the bare minimum if you like, and then we all cook together and the more people bring to the kitchen the better. I also try to engage with people who do not come from a theatre background, but who are experts in their field to join the creative team. For instance for The Gambler with worked with Gambler’s Anonymous; for Blind Man’s Song, we worked over a year with blind and partially sighted people.
All the collaborators are in the rehearsal room from day one, even if they are not directly involved with what we are working on at that particular moment. We often start by doing things, by moving, by playing and then little by little sequences or little scenarios start to emerge and then a theme, and then another, and another, and then we try to link it all and find hidden connections and transitions. Strangely enough it is usually in the transitions that the best bits emerge. We also play a lot with objects and try to find their inherent theatricality. These objects (boxing gloves, letters, a step ladder, a microphone, a moving light, a cable, a bed, a piano) somehow become central to each pieces.
One thing is for sure: it takes a very long time to make a show.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is very important if not crucial because at the end of the day, it is all about communication.
However, I tend to not think too much of the audience when we are making the piece. I try to make something that the creative team and myself will find beautiful, meaningful, and that we believe in, but I don’t worry too much about the audience at that stage.
We test the work on a regular basis, so the audience is important but not to make the meaning of the show, just to check that what we do reaches them in the way that we intend to.
I also feel like a piece of work is never quite complete until we performed it in front of an audience for quite a long time. As if the last final tweaks could only be made live on stage and that is one of the most exciting part as it really shows that theatre has a life of its own.