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François Tanguy et le Théâtre du Radeau

In approximately twenty years, François Tanguy and the Radeau have presented a body of work whose coherence of reflection and proposition is unequalled in contemporary theatre. The final overall design is one that interrogates constantly the possibilities of dramatic art: not contemporary or classical drama, but the intrinsic nature and limits of dramatic representation. The direction of the Radeau has clearly demonstrated a project the nature of which has no real dramatic precedent, although the scene and instruments of representation themselves remain unchanged.

But what is sensed, felt in the most incisive manner is its dramatic nature and that it draws upon something powerful, something that should have remained hidden. This is not, however, an archaeology or anthropology of the theatre even if each title, for one reason or another, evokes a dramatic situation. Such as Mystère Bouffe (1986), Jeu de Faust (1987), Woyzeck-Büchner-Fragments forains (1989), Chant du Bouc (1991), Choral (1994), Bataille du Tagliamento (1996), Orphéon (1998), Les Cantates (2001) and Coda, created in 2004. However, the discourse of dramatic art does not simply invest the textual centre: this latter finishes by being the most distant and remote, that which the intertwining of different dramatic modalities allows to appear and impose itself as the only possible in a given context, in a specific work state.  In this mode of expression, there is no order of priority among the elements, the text itself is nothing but one critical moment among others, seen from the interior of multiple reflections; and the actors, the vocal mode, the presentation-representation, the décor-decors, the precise and strong musical line of these totalities determine particular stances and postures of what originally is a stage and which, in essence, never ceases to arrange itself in series of vanishing lines from the place of its emergence. One cannot say that it is a question of a theatre within a theatre, it is more like its contrary: while the one withdraws into itself in a state of almost paranoid introspection, the other reaches out in search of all the exteriors that the theatre offers. It is thus a theatre which escapes from itself, which abandons the terrain because this setting has become historically and politically incapable of signifying what needs to be done and said; a theatre which stresses the gulf which has opened up between creative expression and the bureaucracies of the « thing» that is theatre.  Escaping yet without renouncing for an instant the stage, the work that the stage involves and demands, nor the necessary distances which lead it to a determinate space, a mental and visual clarity, the result of continual experimentation carried out within a community: it is in this sense that Tanguy is unthinkable without the Radeau, nor the Radeau without Tanguy. What are the consequences of this? Not a school, but something resembling a chorale, as is indicated by one of the presentations: chorale in the sense of one who would play and sing with, together, a totality from which the «chorus» of each one escapes through an unravelling, leaving trails of a material part of the theatre, of theatricality, far from shows, a material released in the critical visitation of a dramatic time and place. A time and a place removed from the theatre – which is left to one side and taken into account – out of place, bordered, impregnable, suspended like a musical «tempo», and which whilst letting itself be seen, hides furtively from any attempt of appropriation, yet appropriate and suited to something, albeit placed on a suspended line of transformations. Then came the material and temporal decision to abandon all restricted spaces for something that is new, while still belonging to a tradition of marginal theatre. The place was originally the «Le Mans Foundry», known now as the «Tent», a place which signifies the remoteness from of towns, preferring junctions and crossroads, places of transit, rest and journey.  This radicalisation has been stunning, not simple because it took place in a limited amount of time and space, but above all because it clarified the possibility of the passage towards action, that is to say, sweeping aside theatre space and each of its elements as classically conceived. The space of this new distance is no longer a place, but a movement of machines in the most material sense of the term, given to see and hear, in a series of high and low, wide and deep, of diagonal, avoiding centrality and ellipsis, focalisation and opacity, whilst keeping the astonishing mastery of the new poetics of this theatre. Even more than previous work, the game framework plateau of Cantates and Coda is held by a sonic column which seems to determine the apprehension of work, but which in reality combines in its depth the «substances» of the Radeau Theatre. The particular treatment of actors, the precision in decor and light and above all the totality of movement and dynamics which gives back a musical effect to the «affective» dimension inseparable from all these elements in unison. Immersed in the immanent body of the theatre, in the elaboration of something that no one can know whether it has been or will be, the work liberates a tension and a vibration which frees itself to become a field of paths where expressions, poetries, texts, gestures, music and machines throw themselves into the discovery of their own development and knowledge in the political and humorous heart of a possible modernity.

"Substances", Jean-Paul Manganaro