Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil
A show by the Théâtre du Soleil
based on an idea of Ariane Mnouchkine
Music : Jean-Jacques Lemêtre
Film direction : Bernard Zitzermann
Created at the Cartoucherie, and playing from Christmas 2006 to 2008, the Théâtre du Soleil’s most recent production has been leading a nomadic life, touring from Athens to the Avignon Festival, from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro or New York, meeting with triumph at every turn, both in France and abroad.
However, the very first performances of Les Ephémères (The Ephemerals) in December 2006 surprised, and even perplexed, the home audience. Neither the form nor the content corresponded with what they themselves thought they should expect – even though at the ritual meeting with the audience given so generously by Ariane Mnouchkine several weeks before opening night, she had warned them that this time, it was going to be totally different!
Having treated in Le Dernier Caravansérail one of the most significant problems of the time in which we live, namely that of exile, immigration and the journeys of ‘migratory people’, the Soleil now advances into the new territory of the intimate, the familial, evoking a country closer to home, France, and sweeping over four generations, the same four generations of which the company is made up, if we include the young children who too perform in this new piece.
Yet Les Ephémères does in fact dialogue with Caravansérail, developing certain themes which arose in the huge epic on refugees – such as the precious and simple moments of their life of before, which exile forever separates them from, or broken love stories – when intimate pierced epic through the refugees’ own narrative as transmitted by the recorded voices of witnesses.
In this way Les Ephémères is a sort of ritual of collective evocation of that which has intimately woven the present life of each individual. The Théâtre du Soleil here tries out a new and urgent commitment: to re-centre focus on the ordinary man or woman, the little grain of sand whom globalisation exiles far from him or herself, attempting to understand him, without the veils of egoistic narcissism, or of vast problems and ideologies. Where do we come from? Who are we? In a time of rapid turnover, where amnesia is one of the ingredients of modern life, the quest for the essential link which connects the individual to the world is without a doubt a necessary political act. This makes Soleil’s most recent piece, seemingly so far from strong political standpoints, in fact a coda to the company’s entire repertoire.