Summer was at its hottest in France, when I traveled here from Finland two weeks ago. I am working with a Franco-Finnish, Parisian company called Collectif Boxon Sentimental and together with the group we’ve been creating the first three-and-some parts of a performance that is planned to extend into eight parts in total, speaking of a taboo of our times: faith.
We spent one week in a residency in a small town called Nevers, building the first three parts of the performance, surrounded by 40 degrees heat and a herd of chicken. The weekend after, we shared the fruits of our work in Paris at an international theatre festival Rêves avant l’Aube, organised at Théâtre de Ménilmontant by director Matthew Bellon. The current week is dedicated to new scenes and musical and physical improvisation in an idyllic rehearsal space in Saint-Denis.
The mastermind behind our massive performance project called “Icônes” is a France-based, Finland-born director and theatre researcher from Sorbonne Nouvelle university, Carmen Kautto. Carmen has been planning the performance for years and is finally able to start putting her thoughts on paper - and on stage. Icônes speaks about the need to believe in something - let it be religion, ideology or love - and does so in the context of Russian history during the past 100 years, from the October revolution to our times. The performance is episodic, using physical theatre, live music, visual arts and both contemporary and classical texts as its material. Carmen has also written scenes for the piece and translated some original Soviet Blue Blouse sketch pieces, whose writers have been sent to the camps in Siberia during Stalin’s purges in the 20s. Additionally, texts of the piece vary from Tony Kushner’s modern writing to the grand classic of a Soviet Writer Leonid Zorin’s play as well as a turn-of the-century queer poet Zinaida Gippius’s work.
The piece is massive, but the building it in small pieces, showing one thing at the time and rehearsing couple of weeks at the time makes the task extremely enjoyable. As an actress, that gives the opportunity to learn your text between residencies and not to stress during an intensive week, as well as the freedom to improvise and create without needing to set things in stone during a single, 5-week rehearsal block.
Calm rehearsals and the warm wheather in Paris are topped up with the nights of football, where everyone gathers to support the French team on its way to the world cup’s final. It warms up my heart to see so many people on the streets together, and to be able to feel like part of a huge crowd supporting a group of professionals dear to them, being ready to give everything from themselves for the period of two hours per night, just because they are caught by a performance - on the field. Not so different to theatre.
Anna Korolainen Crevier