Bertrand Lesca (Bert and Nasi) – The Frame

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Bertrand Lesca is a theatre maker from France. After studying at Warwick University, he went on to assist Peter Brook and Declan Donnellan on several international tours. Bertrand currently works with Nasi Voutsas (Bert and Nasi) with whom he co-created the trilogy EUROHOUSE, PALMYRA and ONE.

The Frame

Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas in Palmyra. Photo by Alex Brenner

PC: Your work seems to fit into a long tradition of comedy double acts, was that a conscious decision?

BL: No, it was more about understanding the dynamic between us two. We quite quickly found, whilst improvising, that I was oppressing Nasi and he was just the victim of this horrible person that I was playing. We always found it very amusing and very funny. We had no sense that this was what we wanted to do, it just kind of started to happen. Then we saw the film of Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment which had a comedy routine that was happening between two people where one clown wants to put a line of chairs to the front of the stage and another clown wants to put the chairs to the back. It starts with just one man starting to place them and then the other one moving them and then the way that it builds was really amazing. There was something almost political about it but again not naming anything political: just two people on stage wanting different things. We were really interested in what you could read into that if you give that scene a title. If you frame it for the audience, you start seeing the scene differently.

Tim Etchells on the first moments of Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment

I think that idea of framing something is quite key to our work. Something clicked, as well, when looking at Cy Twombly’s paintings. Even though his art is very abstract and hard to decipher, there’s always a title which comes to support the viewers understanding of what it’s about. We always try and give our work a very clear title, a very clear frame so that we can take the audience on a journey.

The Song of the Border-Guard by Cy Twombly 1952 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P77550

PC: What’s the first thing that you do when developing a piece?

BL: We get into the room and we just start talking about this thing. Then at some point we need to stop talking and start making something. We then try and leave all the information that we’ve gathered together outside and we start playing. Usually there’s just the two of us, so we start playing games and running long improvisations that carry on for anything up to an hour and a half. After that we make notes of things that we’ve found during the improvisation and what connected to the ideas that we’ve talked about. But we have to find the game and what the game is. So, if you have a man on the ladder and you have a man who’s not on the ladder, what’s the game? How can you play with that? We take a long time to work out what games work with the particular political context that we’re exploring. At the end of the day, it needs to be something that we can play, that we can act with. If it gets too complicated we usually leave it to one side.

PC: Are those connections always clear?

BL: We try to make them clear but sometimes there’s a sense that the meaning of it even escapes us, we don’t really know why it works but we think it works. For example, in Palmyra there’s this moment when I start shaving Nasi’s beard with the microphone, there’s something so violent about this but also very playful, but the meaning of it didn’t come through the first time, we were just playing. It came up again and it was very clear for us that it was about how people perceive the beard of a Muslim person and the act of shaving it, it’s offensive from a religious point of view but also a really quite aggressive thing to do. That all started off as a game; something completely unconscious that we did in rehearsals which came back again and made complete sense with what the show also needed to say.

Read the full interview here.

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Tim Etchells on chaos

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This is an extract from an interview with Tim Etchells, Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment – read the full interview here.

Chaos is the order that you weren’t expecting! That’s what my 19 year old son tells me. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as chaos really. Any set of actions in time and space has a structure. It might not be easy to see at first glance. But it’s always there. Pattern and structure are always present.

Of course there are plenty of moments in our performances that look chaotic. Many times there will be material created in improvisation where a number of performers are working, making their own decisions in a kind of friction with each other: some striking off in this direction, others going in that direction. It’s a very complex interaction and when you look at it, it can appear chaotic – hard to map or contain. But in the theatre works we tend to control that kind of chaos very carefully. So chaos tends to be a recreation rather than anything really out of hand – we study the video recordings of the rehearsals and recreate the best of them, move for move, line for line. Someone once observed that the things that look most chaotic in our pieces are often the most completely and precisely choreographed. We’re very interested in that texture – that feeling that the eye doesn’t know where to rest, that the centre is missing, you see it, in shows like Real MagicThe Last Adventures or Bloody Mess or even the new one Out of Order, but we know we couldn’t improvise those every night in the theatre (it’s too unpredictable). So the only way that we can get anything to look out of control and multi-directional is via choreographing the most dynamic of the improvisations – scoring them in relation to the video and then working on notation and mechanical repetition. It’s acting – making it look real when it isn’t, making time flow, but controlling it somehow. Chaos on stage is, by its nature, perhaps slightly oxymoronic!

Out of Order. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Read the full interview here.

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Tim Etchells on memory

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This is an extract from an interview with Tim Etchells, Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment – read the full interview here.

Two things. I’m interested in creating a structure or system that allows (within the space of an hour and half or two hours or whatever) you to learn the way that it’s working. In that structure or system you can then begin to locate yourself so that it becomes a world in and of itself that’s maybe looping or repeating or returning to certain things. Again, it’s to do with a piece not just being a parade of newness – it’s both new and repeating. In terms of memory, you’re remembering back to half an hour ago or you’re remembering back to fifteen minutes ago or you’re remembering back to an hour ago and it becomes a sort of system that refers you back to yourself in it.

The other thing that I think about is that often we work with improvisation in the making of things and/or in the doing of them depending on the piece. We have a real interest in performers not being able to remember. For example, in Bloody Mess John tries to tell the story of the big bang – the beginning of the universe – but he doesn’t know anything about physics so what he remembers of the big bang is just a home made, ‘down the pub’ version. I think we do that a lot. In Quizoola! (the piece with all the questions and answers) people constantly ask how a car engine works or what’s the plot of the bible, things that you can’t reasonably be expected to explain, but they do try. We’re very interested in the process of them trying to explain those things or remember them and articulate them in language. The failing memory is more interesting than a fully functioning one because you only get a partial version and a partial version is always more interesting than the full version – it’s got more holes in it.

Memory also links back to imagination and witnessing. We try to engage people in a different way and one of the ways we do that is to work with fragments. We like to work with pieces that aren’t connected so that the audience will have to do that imaginative work of joining them together. We pass on (almost) the job of imagining to somebody else. We’re about materialising a set of facts, events, things in the space and other people are the ones busy imagining. We’re more about putting some things there that they have to deal with.

 

Read the full interview here.

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