60 European citizens committed to creating theatre that proposes new storytelling experiences about the recent financial crisis.
The French contribution to the Sifnos Crisis Theatre project Nous qui désirons sans fin, Our Never-Ending Desire was a highly creative and original site-specific piece, situated twenty minutes walk from the cultural centre on the top of the hill. The performance began with a silent procession up a little stone path rising up the hill, past little shrubs and bushes tipped with little coloured flowers. This was a strong directorial choice – the silence prepared people bringing them into a receptive state, connecting them to the sounds, sights and smells of the island. It added a contemplative, almost ritual element to the piece, connecting us directly to the first key theme of the work: that our fast-paced world of Global “instantaneity” and short-term profit are unsustainable have distanced us from an organic understanding of real time and real place.
Reaching the top of the hill, we seated ourselves on a carpet facing a windmill looking out over beautiful of the coast of the island; sea and far off islands melting into a pale mauve sunset. The use of space was incredible – the stage took the form of a wide, expansive field, the raised circle surrounding the windmill created a block on the right hand side, with the tops of little white creating a diagonal to the back of the space: a short dry stone wall stretching across the width of the field. Balanced against the anchor of the mill (signifying labour) lay a sparse but delicately positioned set made from materials which had been gathered from the surrounding fields: a burnt ironing board, baby chair leftovers, motors, debris, the carcass of a television and toilet bowl, and an old rusty fire hose.
From behind us, Mathilde Delahaye (director) began the performance by clicking two stones together in a strict rhythm, gradually picking up tempo. Gradually, texts were layered over the beat; some of which the group had created in response to the crisis, and these were used in addition to passages which talk about the absurdity of capitalism and the futility of hope, by the Belgian author Raoul Vaneigem, from Nous qui désirons sans fin (1996), and Pour l’abolition de la société marchande.
“Imperturbable and uncertain is the one that conquers chance.We are in the world and in ourselves at the crossroad of two civilizations. The first completes to ruin itself by sterilizing the universe beneath its frozen shadow, the other discovers in the first lights of a reborn life a new man, sensitive, alive, creator, and frail bud of an evolution where the homo economicus is from now on only a dead branch.”
The performance was in French with no subtitles, but was made engaging to a non-French speaking audience through the focus on the musicality of the text and the poetry of the gesture and action – another reason why the text was left in the prose of the original and not translated. The displacement of ‘sense’ for a large proportion of the audience also related to themes raised in the seminars at the beginning of the workshop – that the crisis has been explained by politicians and mediated through television and newspapers through a jargon which is incomprehensible to a large proportion of the population; leaving a collection of nonsense dead words and empty sentences.
Striking, almost ritualised actions utilized the conditions space to the full extent. Since the actresses were sometimes about 30 metres away from one another, the action was coordinated by Mathilde, who conducted some of the synchronisation: for instance, when all actors simultaneously dropped behind the walls. All performers managed to project an energy and sense of presence to an audience in a vast space that could easily them; keeping movements sharp and subtle, yet magnified.
Each action was highly poetic. Charlotte Maignan wore a costume of a backpacker or hiker, with bundles of stones tied to pieces of string through holes in their centre, walking, and dragging them across the rough terrain as if ploughing a field. Intermittently, actresses came to the front of the white houses that formed blocks stretching into the depth of the space, to present different pieces of text to the audience. At one point, Louise appeared on top of a small white box house to shake her breasts at the audience with a sack covering her head. Towards the ending section of the work Mathilde, crossed the space, through the audience from the back, to throw rocks aggressively at Celine Champinot at the top of her outpost, each one hitting the top of the wall and ricocheting off into the scrub. The piece closed with Elodie Quezel walking nude across the length of the dry stone wall in the distance, and Marion singing a song in French (which song), with rocks being thrown at her from behind the dry stone wall.