Lucinda Childs and Bob Wilson bring the ephemeral to life

“The room no longer belongs to me”, launches Robert Wilson, at the conclusion of one of the last rehearsals of his play I was sitting on my patio this guy appeared I thought I was hallucinating.

What does the director think, at the dawn of his 80 years, by observing Christopher Nell, this double so strangely dissimilar in the physical as in the voice? He will say nothing, contenting himself with memories of the creation of 1977, distilled by a few amused pirouettes: he remembers his acrobatics to the hangers to manually adjust the projectors, adjust a mask or gelatin to obtain the desired light.

Today, Bob Wilson gives his instructions to a technician who reflects from his computer the director’s wishes: how to light up a face, the exactly delimited part of a hand …

→ READ. Lucinda Childs and Bob Wilson open the 50th Fall Festival

An extreme precision which, like all of his work, marks the recreation of I was sitting on my patio (…), he played withthe choreographer Lucinda Childs, during a long Parisian series at the Renaissance theater in 1978. “This piece struck the spirits at the time”, underlines Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, director of the Théâtre de la Ville who wanted to make this cover one of the events of the 50e Autumn Festival. ” This show is one of those who, in the 1970s, allowed the transformation of our art to what it is today, he continues. Memory must be a living act. “

Identical scenography

If Lucinda Childs and Bob Wilson have already played the game, among others with Einstein on the beach in 2012, putting together old shows is not obvious to them. “I am not attached to the idea of ​​a repertoire, assure Bob Wilson. I am not a classic, my work is not intended to be repeated. “ Yet he decided to respond to the invitation – in part, he says, as a tribute to his “Long love affair with France”.

→ CRITICAL. In Montpellier, the “Einstein on the Beach” experience

Many elements remain from the 1977 production: the text written by the director, a hazy video, detailed notes kept by Lucinda Childs, the set drawings and, of course, the artists’ memories.

Everything will therefore be identical except … the two performers, at the heart of the piece. “Distribution was the most sensitive issue of this recovery, confirms Charles Chemin, associate director of Bob Wilson. He had written this completely unusual text for him and had asked Lucinda, with whom he already had a great bond, to be his female counterpoint. Each had directed himself. The challenge was to detach the show from its two performers …So we chose radically different people. “

Repetitions via Zoom

“It’s a dream cast”, smiles Lucinda Childs who, at the suggestion of the Théâtre de la Ville, has handed over her role to the Australian Julie Shanahan, faithful interpreter of Pina Bausch. From New York, where the constraints imposed by the pandemic were holding her back, the choreographer provided part of the rehearsals via Zoom, by reconstituting the volumes of the scenography in her studio.

“For me, it was a leap into the unknown but above all a huge gift, confides Julie Shanahan, who has spent her entire career with the grande dame of Wuppertal, who suddenly died in 2009. It’s great for me to work with great designers again. Lucinda has incredible energy and like Pina, she doesn’t have to speak a lot to say a lot. Like her, I felt that all she had to do was look at me to start creating. “ One of his challenges was to tame Wilson’s fanciful words: “I learned the text this summer, I repeated it to myself every morning while going for a walk with my dogs in the woods near my home. “

Christopher Nell, who has already performed in several Wilson shows, takes over the role of the director. “After several large productions, I dreamed of a more intimate creation and I am obviously very happy with the confidence offered by Bob, he explains. But it’s also very scary! I was not born when the show premiered but I know a lot of people who remember it. My concern, and that of Bob, was not to offer a “remake” but a piece that remains relevant today. “ Likely, as more than forty years ago, to transport the public beyond surprise.

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A piece of nonsense

The text of I was sitting on my patio (…) was written by Bob Wilson as a ” daydream “. This monologue plunges the viewer into a fragmented mind where the thoughts, obsessions and evocations of multiple characters overlap. A room where the “Nonsense” and the influx of information resonates with the present day.

The monologue is played successively by the two performers who, through their playing, their energy and the particular use of the body, in movements and postures, each offer a different and complementary solo.

The music as the scenography, very bare, are those used in the setting in 1977. The light, particularly elaborate, shapes the space like the faces made up to the extreme.

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