# 9 Dom Juan or the feast of the statue
By Jean Lambert-wild, Lorenzo Malaguerra and Marc Goldberg
The creative team behind DOM JUAN OR THE FEAST WITH THE STATUE share diary entries about their new show.
In previous diary entries, we mentioned what pitfalls we might encounter in the way we direct our actors. We put together on stage an ensemble composed of: a clown, a seasoned actor, three musicians and several young actors who have just graduated from Académie de l’Union. While each one of them is undeniably here for a reason, how can such a heteroclite group of people work together? How can we combine all their different technical abilities, experiences, energies? From the start, Lorenzo Malaguerra knew this was going to be a real challenge…
Working with Steve Tientcheu was the easiest part. As an actor, he is pragmatic and he doesn’t get carried away by the way the text sounds. Being pragmatic is a determining quality when playing Sganarelle who is a very literal character. This allows Steve Tientcheu to develop the character’s comic power and his simple humanity, in a complete contrast with Dom Juan. Steve’s other strength lies in how open and inventive he is. With each direction that Lorenzo gives him, he changes his performance. He also takes on board each one of his peers’ suggestions. We immediately noticed how his pace, his movements, his interactions with the other characters were pertinent and precise. In fact, directing him consisted mostly in reassuring him at times, in the early days of rehearsals, because both the part and what was at stake were considerable. This was so that he could be fully free to play, something which has grown with each rehearsal period.
Years of working together for Jean Lambert-wild and Lorenzo Malaguerra, as well as the deep trust between them, have established a sort of working method that is a way of directing. Within this project, Gramblanc makes suggestions, Lorenzo either encourages or dissuades him. It is a dialectical exchange. Looking back, we realise that there have been three main stages in the rehearsal periods. The first one was negative, in a way, and can be summed up by what Lorenzo at some point said to Jean: ‘Richard, begone!’ After more than 100 performances of Richard III, Shakespeare’s hero was pegged to Gramblanc’s body and would sometimes come out like a devil jumping out of its box… This “exorcism” phase was made more complex by the fact that, as explained in a previous diary entry, the symbiosis between Gramblanc and Dom Juan had become difficult because another character had started to haunt us: Dracula. But once we had found Gramblanc’s Dom Juan, red-haired and full of youthful energy in a sickly body, the last rehearsal period became a joyful maturing process where the main aim was to multiply colours, surprises and contrasts.
In our last diary entry, we mentioned the role played by the musicians. Once we had defined their function, within the world of the show, we had to decide how they were going to play these contra-augustes. Of course, the main danger was that they would be excessive, a danger because we are not creating a circus-like performance. Their function is to support Sganarelle’s clown with the way they react… Lorenzo Malaguerra finds himself in the position of a “tuner”: he has to decide, with a goldsmith’s precision, how often we hear these characters (but without turning them into puppets…) Luckily, the musicians play the game without resistance, like they would have done had they been directed by a conductor. Doing so, they quickly became Steve and Jean’s onstage peers.
We assume that Molière was grappling with similar issues, since he was working at the crossroads of different performance codes: old codes, such as farce; foreign codes, such as Commedia dell’Arte; contemporary codes, such as the ones of French Classicism. All three traditions, as well as Baroque theatre, are all in Dom Juan, at times side by side, often mixed in together. It is certain that we also follow in this hybridising spirit.
What makes our project so specific is, of course, the fact that we work with the young actors who graduated from Académie de l’Union. In an earlier Diary entry, we explained how the fact they were extremely young was for us an essential and necessary aspect of the project. We also said that the fact parts were played in rotation brought additional vitality. Once again, in Dom Juan’s morbid palace, eaten away by suffocating greenery and haunted by death, their characters’ vocation is to bring a sense of élan vital, a dream of springtime, salutary surprises, both for Sganarelle and Dom Juan as characters and for Steve Tientcheu and Jean Lambert-wild as actors.
With this conviction, we must find ways of putting our ambition into practice. This research is particularly experimental and collective.
The aim is to create a general framework that, without smothering each young actor’s personality, takes into account several articulations and turning points. During the first rehearsal period, the students from Académie de l’Union went on stage one after the other, exploring and suggesting ideas, watched by their peers and directed by Lorenzo Malaguerra. There was one instruction: to bounce back, swerve, explore breaches, go deeper, all the while exploring dramatic situations and challenges. Sometimes, we got lost, like during this memorable afternoon during which Academy students put on a Japanese-inspired costume to play the Pauper as a woodland creature. This red herring followed previously unsuccessful attempts where the Academy students had invoked their clown to play the Pauper. However, this also brought a solution: we finally opted for the most absolute starkness to highlight their insolent youth that is unbearable for Dom Juan.
Little by little, the four characters played by the Academy students (Donna Elvira, Charlotte, the Pauper and the Father) emerged. Now, it is for them, or the ones who want to, to take possession of these characters’ outlines and embody them fully. A large part of the last rehearsal period is dedicated to this, with a focus on technique at times, so that each character’s avatar can carry a singular yet comparable weight. This will enable the show to each time be made anew while staying on track