Interview with Jean Lambert-wild
You first mentioned an adaptation of Richard III over a year ago. However, the project has somewhat changed since those early stages. It almost feels like a “Calenture” now ...
Absolutely! I will be on stage, or rather my clown will be. The show will start with my locked-up, pajama-clad clown and will open with the sounds of Richard III’s nightmare, as ghosts haunt him. He will lose a leg during this nightmare and will wake up lame. Then begins the introductory monologue: as the character, in a state of both physical and mental confinement, proceeds to reinvent a world for himself.
Your initial idea was to have a single actor on stage, thus emphasizing the idea of loneliness, but it sounds like this is no longer the case.
The numerous characters that populate Shakespeare’s play will emerge from this nightmarish moment of loneliness in countless ways... Particularly through the presence of Elodie Bordas, who will share the stage with me. My aim with this duo is to create a relationship akin to that of King Lear and the Fool, of Sancho Panza and Don Quixote, or Don Juan and Sganarelle. All of these characters are figures inhabited by fables that go way beyond them. I’m interested in exploring the idea of power shifts: does Richard III not become a slave to his own ghosts? He is a sleepwalker and, as such, he bends reality to his will.
How did you come to the conclusion that you had to play Richard III?
In the historian Paul Murray Kendall’s biography, I learnt that Richard III (the historical figure) was a great believer in omens. It’s something I share with him: I am an actor because I received signs pointing me towards this profession. I also discovered his incredible motto: "Loyalty binds me." He was, undeniably, an extremely loyal figure in a decadent world. Kendall also mentions Richard III’s great naiveté. There is something very quixotic in his approach to control. He is a Don Quixote of cruelty. Discovering his motto helped me understand the nature of my clown’s identifications with him, as well as my own.
His loyalty is not his most famous trait ...
He finds himself at the intersection of several worlds and is the sole defender of a collapsing bridge on which armies are rushing. It’s a position he endures, rather than chooses. He is willing to sacrifice his whole kingdom for a horse, but he is not fleeing! On the contrary, he wants a horse to keep fighting. Loyalty binds him: he will not run away. This is even reflected in his physical appearance. The reason behind his deformity is fascinating: as it turns out, he was not born a hunchback. During his childhood, his regular sword-training caused the outgrowth on his arm. He became a hunchback because of his training, so it is his own will power that made him a hunchback. This changes everything. He remains true to his commitments until the end. There is cruelty in this: it proves cruel both to him and to others. He is engulfed in loneliness and fear, but also totally possessed by his own will power. Fury, violence, murders, curses, omens, a decaying world, an ascending shadow, a kingdom on the verge of collapse... Amidst all of this, he becomes a sacrificial - almost grotesque - figure with all the attractive, repulsive, monstrous, funny and heartbreaking elements it conveys.
Elodie Bordas is a new addition to your team. How did that come to be?
There is a fierceness that binds us, and our Austin residency truly affirmed this bond. Elodie Bordas has a sensitive monstrosity about her: she can embody the fantasized vision of a fragile woman and a second later, she can become a demon, then a clown ... She carries beauty and ugliness within her. What’s interesting in our relationship is our ability to lead each other into spirals, to the extent that it becomes virtually impossible to tell who’s in synch with whom. We are two relentless creatures who know that it is possible to work jointly without devouring one another. We can laugh at this, and it’s by no means a competition. As such, Elodie Bordas will truly be involved in the development of the show. We create things together, like two clowns in a mirror - our own Me in front of me. Elodie Bordas is not an actress that can be directed: she must be summoned and her imagination must be fed until something, at some point, unfolds. She then settles in the right spot. I want to generate a huge thirst for poetry, turn our set into an extraordinary place. This is the best way to ensure catharsis. Being ordinary means becoming a caricature. When you reach for the extraordinary, even stumbling and falling can create something sublime.
The power of the play’s original language is also something that attracted you to it...
We will have to find a way to render the effect of Shakespeare’s language in French. It’s a language that scratches, but unlike Antonin Artaud’s language, which has the effect of a hand scratching the surface of the skin, it is more subtle - an inner graze. It’s like a worm that creeps in and that you must then live with. We’ll have to work towards a translation that conveys the truly embedding power of Shakespeare’s language.
This project is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III: how will you represent the scores of characters from the original?
During our residency in Austin, we worked with Future Perfect and Wayne Ashley. We carried out experiments using Faceshift, the face animation software they’re working on. Exploring the surfaces these images can be projected on and finding ways to contort and twist the scenographic space in order to reflect the character of Richard III will be interesting. What makes this software so exciting is that it allows you to feel the presence of the actor within the image. It carries a ghost, which is fundamental.
Why is this perceived ghost in the projected images so important?
Because it relates to memory and to the way we inhabit these images - concepts that run through my work. What does it bring about in us? Memory has its own logic; it makes its own associations. I’m interested in the idea of continuity and discontinuity. What will maintain the flow, or continuity of the story, and what will disrupt it? Why is it that a particular pattern emerges? How is it that a sudden disruptive pattern can provide a new continuity to the story? This cannot be a theoretical experience: it can only be physical, experienced through acting and the actor’s position in space. Something in there will pace itself to the beat of the human heart. The beat that takes Richard III from his sleeplessness through to the times he sees himself as a giant is also very interesting, as it challenges the idea of time. How can he switch from one rhythmic extreme to the next, what is the weight of his second?
Have you started working on an adaptation that will reveal the echoes you mention, between continuity and discontinuity?
First, we will have to see what we manage to create on set with our bodies. Elodie Bordas and I will be working out of sight, to test ourselves as well as our ability to connect. Intensity will control our movements, not the other way around, which is a significant difference. We will have to delve in very deep and draw from rarely tapped-into sources. It’s a four-way collaboration, with Jean-Luc Therminarias and Stéphane Blanquet. We will challenge our bodies, then test our bodies within their music, all of which should come together peacefully. I think a chaotic beginning is probably the best way to proceed... First, we must tune in to each other, through chaos. I think we will be moving towards an edge, and when we reach it... I’m guessing Elodie and I will jump in headlong to see what lies on the other side. And then ... we’ll see!
Interview by Eugénie Pastor, avril 2015.