Interview with Lorenzo Malaguerra
Richard III – Loyalty binds me – is the third project you’ve developed with Jean Lambert-wild. You’ll also be directing him as an actor for the second time. What are the challenges at hand in a task that encompasses integrating Jean Lambert-wild’s aesthetic?
I enjoy this type of collaborative work, I find it healthy and it prevents placing one’s ego where it shouldn’t be. I’m also a firm believer in putting one’s strengths where they are the most likely to be useful. I feel at ease in actor direction, much more so than in scenography. Directing Jean Lambert-wild is a real pleasure as he’s a very flexible – and powerful – actor.
How do your vision and “voice” as a stage director fit into this project?
By not being present on set, I am able to make sure the show is as coherent as possible. Beyond rehearsals, Jean and I talk a lot about our understanding of the text and what it means to perform it nowadays. We verify the elements that are most likely to work and those that aren’t. The strength of our shared vision is undoubtedly the greatest quality of our collaboration.
This is your second adaptation of a “classic”, after Waiting for Godot: how do you relate to Shakespeare’s text? And to the story he’s telling?
I’ve hardly ever worked on anything but classics on my own, from Claudel, Sophocles, Shakespeare or even Kotlès, whom I consider a “classic” as he falls within a great theatrical tradition. I see Richard III as a mad play, in which most situations belong to a reality that is very remote from me. I’m sure many contemporary references can be projected onto it – the exercise of power as a corruption of the mind, for instance - however, with Shakespeare, corruption starts before the beginning of the play. To an extent, there is but a steady increase in horror. One of the most fascinating aspects of the play is not so much the corrupting quality of power, rather that the exercise of power enables corruption. It’s a total reversal. In Shakespeare’s play, power is what gives the character absolute freedom, both in relation to others and to language.
From your perspective, what are the main challenges posed by the translation and adaptation of the original text? How can you make Shakespeare’s words your own and build a version of the text that fits into Jean Lambert-wild’s particular aesthetics and poetics?
Back in 2008, I put up Romeo and Juliet, collaborating with Yves Sarda for a completely new translation of the text. From these translation sessions, I remember the brilliance of the writing, which not only comes up with striking metaphors but in which the very sound of words and sentences sheds light on the dramatic situation. This is extremely hard to render in French. That’s why it is necessary for a poet to be involved in the translation process, in order to find equivalents to these strokes of genius. I think it is fundamental for Jean Lambert-wild to keep an eye on the translation work: having the character of Richard III write his own text, so to speak, is very interesting. I feel that this is the way Shakespeare wrote his play: Richard III is an aesthete in his actions, his thoughts and his speech.
Is it a challenge to direct two actors who will stand for all the characters in the play? And how do you work with the “ghosts” that haunt your version of the play?
I think it’s an excellent idea to only have two performers: one for Richard III and one (a woman) as a distorting echo of the other’s fantasies. I think it brings a lot of clarity to this prolific play. Beyond that, I think that when it proves impossible to hire 40 performers to represent 40 characters, it’s important to be radical in the opposite direction. Élodie Bordas is an actress who can play just about anything, without changing completely. It’s not about performing a cross-dressing or quick-change act, rather embodying Richard’s recurrent nightmare. It’s a very tricky position for an actor. We’ll of course endeavour to put in place simple and accessible codes for each of the characters she’s embodying. But the fundamental thing is for Élodie Bordas and Jean Lambert-wild to be synchronous in the great storm of madness the play slowly sinks into.
How do you work with technology? Is it something you’re used to working with? How does it fit in - visually – with your approach to the set and dramatic dynamics?
The technological aspect of the show is Jean Lambert-wild’s realm. As technology is part of our everyday lives, there’s not reason for it not be part of theatre. The only problem of technology on stage is that it needs to be more powerful than the actors in order not to look silly, fake or superfluous. It is also - and that’s an essential point - highly time-consuming. It is fundamental to take in account the time and space it requires during rehearsals in order not to get completely lost.
Jean Lambert-wild’s use of technology introduces a kind of strangeness and adds a surprising archaic dimension to the performance. It’s a real theatrical technology rather than a mere addition of machines. This is actually the reason we spend so much time fine-tuning it. This version of Richard III explores the idea of a funfair– a funfair being a place where anything is possible – and in this vision, our technological ghosts are inherent parts of the festive machinery that combines the fake, garish, imaginary and elegant aspects of clowns.
How do you apprehend the collaborative principle governing all of Jean Lambert-wild’s projects? In your opinion, what are the main aspects of this collaborative principle, and is it a format you are used to?
The important aspect is that a theatrical show is a collaborative enterprise. Even when staging a show on one’s own, one experiments with this. I find it much more interesting to tackle a problem as a group, and I don’t necessarily mean a collective. Science works through such methods, and theatre shares this approach in the sense that it poses theoretical assumptions to be verified on set. I find the collaborative approach (as I’ve experienced it with Jean and his team) much richer than one favouring a solitary demiurge, which forged the stage director tradition in the past century.
Interview by Eugénie Pastor, avril 2015.