Avignon’s annual theatre festival is one of the most significant in the European arts calendar, a showcase for the world’s leading theatre practitioners as well as for exciting and innovative young companies. The festival is held each July and transforms the city into one of the most important platforms for theatre.
The 66th Avignon Festival celebrated contemporary British Theatre, and for the first time selected a British Associate Artist in Simon McBurney, the director of Complicite. With the support of the British Council, the festival featured productions from Complicite, Katie Mitchell, Forced Entertainment, John Berger & Katya Berger, 1927 and Lundahl & Seitl.
Additionally, we supported four companies to attend Salon D’Artistes, which gives the companies the opportunity to meet small groups of international programmers. We also launched a Ones to Watch brochure of up-and-coming UK artists.
Avignon Festival Associate Artist 2012
Each year the directors of the Festival, Hortense Archambault and Vincent Baudriller, involve selected artists in the preparation. They work with these associate artists to enrich the programme and festival with different sensibilities and viewpoints on theatre arts and creation. This year’s festival was curated with Director Simon McBurney with support from the British Council.
Avignon Festival Artistic Programme
We supported British artists in the artistic programme of the Avignon Festival, presenting eight productions and three exhibitions:
The Master and Margarita | Complicite production | 7-16 July
Written by Mikhaïl Bulgakov and directed by Simon McBurney
A woman goes to hell and back to save her lover. Pontius Pilate argues with Christ about the nature of human worth. And the Devil pays a visit to Stalinist Moscow, exposing the hypocrisy, greed and corruption of its citizens. Moving between the fervently atheistic Moscow of the 1930s and Jerusalem during the last days of Jesus’s life, Bulgakov’s violent, poetic maelstrom of a novel comes to life through performance, video, puppetry and music in Simon McBurney’s adaptation.
From A to X | Festival d'Avignon production | 9 July
By John Berger and readings by John Berger, Juliette Binoche and Simon McBurney
A for Aida, X for Xavier. He is in prison, serving a life sentence; she carries on her daily life as a pharmacist and writes to him. A one-way correspondence that is transformed into a diary, as Xavier has got into the habit of jotting down, on the back of Aida's letters, his thoughts on his imprisonment and his earlier life, through Aida's words, Xavier re-enters the outside world. From A to X is a vibrant tribute to the strength of these words that, outside cell 73 in which the prisoner pays the price of his political convictions, an unalienable wind of freedom blows.
Est-ce que tu dors? (Lying Down to Sleep) | Festival d'Avignon production | 22-25 July
By John Berger and Katya Berger & the complicity of Simon McBurney
It took nine years for Andrea Mantegna to decorate the walls and the ceiling of a small room in the ducal palace of Mantua. Visited several times by John and Katya Berger who, fascinated by this work, started a correspondence on its subject. Their letters and text messages became dialogue recounting the beauty of Mantegna's paintings, exploring the relationship between father and daughter, and questioning one’s viewpoint, the reading-performance is a proposal for a relationship: to art, the world and time.
The Coming Storm | Forced Entertainment | 19 – 27 July
Directed by Tim Etchells
Forced Entertainment tangle and cross-cut multiple stories to make a compelling and unstable performance. From love and death to sex and laundry, from shipwrecks to falling snow, personal anecdotes rub shoulders with imaginary movies, and half-remembered novels bump into distorted fairytales. Six performers create, collaborate, ambush and disrupt this epic saga that is resolutely too big for the stage. The result is comical, contradictory and poignant; full of wrong-headed tricks, broken dances, sleazy drum interruptions and perfunctory piano accompaniment.
Tomorrow’s Parties | Forced Entertainment | 22 – 24 July
Directed by Tim Etchells
Tomorrow's Parties uses minimalist means to present a swarm of fragmented visions of what the future might be. Utopias, disaster scenarios or realistic developments, collective fantasies or individual desires, paradisiacal and fantastical visions or expressions of our deepest fears: Tomorrow's Parties plays with clichés, breaks taboos and humorously questions the speculative nature of anticipation.
Ten Billion | Royal Court Theatre Production | 23 – 26 July
Directed by Katie Mitchell
By the end of this century, the human population is likely to be over ten billion. Just 25 years ago, it was less than five billion. How are the choices we’re making as a species impacting upon our environment? And how will the sheer force of numbers affect the way we live in the future? Scientist Stephen Emmott and director Katie Mitchell deliver a new kind of scientific lecture, highlighting key issues being lost in translation in our discussion of the environment. Ten Billion paints a vivid portrait of a species with its head in the sand.
The Animals and Children took to the Streets | 1927 Productions | 21 – 27 July
The Animals and Children took to the Streets tells the story of Agnes Eaves and her daughter who live in Bayou Mansions, a decrepit tenement block lost in the middle of nowhere, desolate and abandoned in a run-down and neglected suburb, with a sinister air. The imaginary setting emphasises the timeless nature of its themes, as the characters navigate government oppression and the paranoia of inner-city life.
The Rings of Saturn | After the novel by W.G. Sebald | Schauspiel Köln productions | 8 – 11 July
Directed by Katie Mitchell
InThe Rings of Saturn, in which W.G. Sebald chronicles his walking tours through Suffolk, a landscape marked by the ravages which man inflicts on himself and on the surrounding nature. As much an autobiographical novel as it is a philosophical tale, Katie Mitchell sets out to follow in the footsteps of this insatiably curious rambler. Alongside him, we plunge into history, to visit eighteenth century China, return to Germany in 1945, watch Anglo-Dutch naval battles and to listen to the sound of footsteps and the sometimes laboured breathing of someone following his path, crossing epochs and continents.
The Infinite Conversation | Installation by Lundahl & Seitl | 13- 22 July
By Lundahl & Seitl
An installation by Lundahl & Seitl, The Infinite Conversation asks the question of autonomy of a work of art and builds a space that takes on substance only if its visitors take part in the experiment proposed. Led by the hand into a room plunged into total darkness, they hear unknown voices holding several live conversations in which they can blend their own voices, projected in their turn in this gallery that is “as dark as the Lascaux cave”. Lundahl & Seitl conduct a political experiment that queries the relationship between taking the floor and taking power.
We were also involved in projects in collaboration with other partners of the Avignon Festival to encourage debate and cultural exchanges with British artists, including a masterclass with Richard Gregory, Artistic Director of the Scottish company Quarantine, and a debate on cultural relations with Institutes Français, Goethe and Cervantes.
Salon D’Artistes, ONDA and the British Council in collaboration with Avignon Festival
Each year at Avignon, the French organisation ONDA convenes Salon D’Artistes, a sort of slow-dating event in which ten artists or companies meet and engage with rotating groups of promoters.
The Salon offers an opportunity for exchange with artistic teams working in France or in the United Kingdom.
For the 2012 Salon, four of the nine companies were British. The UK artists Lundahl & Seitl, Hetain Patel, Quarantine and Andy Field of Forest Fringe International Microfestivals joined five French Artists Nacera Belaza, Severine Chavrier, Steven Cohen, Cholé Moglia and Winter Family.
ONES TO WATCH
We also launched our ONES TO WATCH brochure at Avignon Festival.
Alongside promoting more well-known artists, we wanted to draw attention to an up-and-coming generation of practitioners. Each of these artists or companies is developing a unique aesthetic and artistic methodology, and we believe that each deserves your attention.
Avignon, France7th Jul 2012 - 28th Jul 2012
20 rue du portail Boquier,