PuSh Blog

Norman Gets Around: Avignon Festival

August 01, 2008

Just back from Avignon Festival. A week of shows, food and drinks with colleagues, the hot sun of southern France, and the incessant sound of cicadas.

This was only the second time I’d been to the Festival. Created just after the end of World War II, it’s considered one of the oldest contemporary theatre festivals in the world. (Okay, the French say it’s the oldest, but then they say everything cultured started with them.)

I saw a good dozen shows. A much more leisurely pace than say the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where I have seen as many as 25 pieces in a single week. I caught up with the a few old friends and some new—artists, some fellow presenters. Also met with the Festival’s general manager, as well the person in charge of international relations. Hopefully, we may see someone from Avignon out at the next PuSh Assembly (February 4-8, 2009.)

I was struck with a number of pieces, most notably Variations IV by Kris Verdonck. Verdonck is an artist based in Brussels, whose installations often involve the human body put under some form test or condition. Very thoughtful and memorable work, and beautifully installed.

Another work that left a strong impression was Je tremble (1 et 2) from Paris-based Joël Pommerat, a director/creator who works very collaboratively with his actors to create some of the most immediate, sophisticated and spectacularly theatrical in structure and performance style work that I have seen in a good while. His work is at once delicate and forceful, complex and lucid, finely detailed and unapologetically grandiose.

One the Avignon Festival’s associate artists this year was Romeo Castellucci. I have no doubt that he had a lot to do with the inclusion of an exhibition on the work of UK’s Brothers Quay’s Night Nursery: Those who Endlessly Desire. An extensive installation of films, dioramas and sculptures based on and inspired by their animated films, the Festival program describes it aptly as, “In this cinema installation, forgetting reason, guided by his sensations, giving up narration to travel through the regions dedicated to visual affections and sound impressions, in a darkness pierced by luminous streaks, the visitor will be able to abandon himself, his senses awakened, to the sleep of the imagination.”

Next years’ associate artist at Avignon will be celebrated Québécois theatre artist, Wajdi Mouawad.

All for now… I trust everyone is having a great summer (or winter, depending on whether one is north or south of the equator.)

Next stop: Portland’s TBA Festival featuring Antony and the Johnsons on stage with the Oregon Symphony. Can’t wait…

Norman Armour
Executive Director/Curator