Interview with Jean Lambert-wild

Why did you decide to put on a Samuel Beckett play, and, of all his works, why Waiting for Godot?

It’s a question of maturity. I have always had a great desire for Beckett’s writing, but I don’t like to do things without a total commitment. It had to be the right time, and to correspond to a current political reality. Moreover, while rereading another Beckett text that I like a lot, Worstward Ho, I remembered what an immense poet Beckett is.

I think that it’s especially linked to this strong connection that unites us, Lorenzo Malaguerra, Marcel Bozonnet, and myself. A real connection that comes together around this text. Beckett is a committed man. There is obvious humanity about Beckett, which is never faked. He faces it to the end, and he puts it under pressure, even if it’s dangerous, and even if it’s sometimes ignoble. I think that there is something just, and right, in the fact that we’re all together around this wonderful theatrical text. It requires a total commitment: physical, political, poetic. We will have to completely and constantly be present, in order to have lightness, a lightness that can only be won at that price. This is what the text demands, and, in a wider sense, what theatre demands.

You specify in your directors’ note that the text will be respected in its entirety, with nothing added or taken away.
Yes, and we won’t use any music. I think that this text must be taken as it is: there is no music in the text, so we won’t use any music. The music is elsewhere, in the rhythm of the words. In fact, this is about true acting work, for you must be able to carry this text and make it understood. We must really concentrate on the actor’s art, and not be mistaken in our attacks, not get carried away, and understand the mechanics and the mathematics of this script backwards and forwards. When you climb a mountain, you’ve got to tie yourselves together to go forward!

In this play, you will be on stage, in the role of Lucky. How do you prepare for this task?

I think that Lucky’s monologue should be learned like a chant. It’s a mechanics of precision. This monologue must not be started too quickly, stressing the comical dimension from the start. Quite the opposite – you have to attack it slowly, in a monotone way. It’s a very musical text, and you can’t push the comical effect: it comes by itself. It’s a monologue without punctuation – you’re in your own solitude. Usually, when you speak a text, you hear it. But here, it’s the text that must pull you, and speak before the person who says it. It must be part of oneself, integrally, enter inside the person who speaks it. If you’re satisfied with knowing it backwards and forwards, it will just fall out of your hands.

The character of Lucky recalls your clown, the one who haunts your Calentures...

That’s exactly right, and actually it will be my clown on stage, in pyjamas, with a little bowler hat, and definitely with make-up... Marcel Bozonnet, who will play the role of Pozzo, will also be made up as a clown. I will be a sad clown, because my red clown is sad, and he will be a white clown. When two clandestine emigrants in a kind of no man’s land see a white clown with a red clown in striped pyjamas on a leash, the memory of the West suddenly bursts onto the stage.

Will this decision give the play a political dimension?

I think that this is a play that is eminently political. The characters of Vladimir and Estragon correspond to something very powerful...they are almost stateless. I asked myself: who are Vladimir and Estragon? As soon as you think that they could be two clandestine immigrants waiting for a border escort, everything resonates differently. For me, this political reading is obvious. 

Do you have ideas for a possible staging?

There’s no need to have ideas: you just have to follow the stage directions. I think that above all you mustn’t have ideas! You must read, re-read, and be led by what is written. Simplicity, levity, and intensity. Our only starting point was to identify Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo, Lucky, and the child. That says it all. The question of directing the actors is related to the poetry of the text: how can we position, hold, and attack these notes, how can we breathe, how can we bring out the comic and burlesque effects without being crude? How can we have levity without it being lurid, how can we create tragedy in laughter? These are complicated questions, but they’re not ideas: it’s just about acting. This mathematics of acting will surely reveal to us equations that we did not suspect, things that one doesn’t always pay attention to. In this way Beckett’s writing is both diluted and concentrated.

And that is where his humanity lies...

Yes, that’s clear, and that’s where the complexity is. But complexity doesn’t resolve itself with ideas, but with positions. Today, who is in the street, on the side of the road, hungry, with hurting feet? Who finds himself in a no man’s land, waiting for someone or something? If this text speaks to us, it’s because it corresponds to the world we live in.

You’re working with artists who have worked with you on other projects. Is that important when putting on this play?

I continue to think that the theatre is a family, and that in this family there is diversity: this is what makes it rich. We can do comedies, we can frighten people... We all have the same desire for theatre, and it’s this desire that makes a small troupe come together at a given moment. These are stories that continue and commitments that have meaning for each one of us: just as much for Marcel Bozonnet as for Fargass Assandé, or Lorenzo Malaguerra, or myself. This shows that theatre is not about the form, that it is less about aesthetic questions than questions of humanity, reconciliation, and the miracle of our greatness. In this polyphony of forms, from one play to another, we find this strong thing that motivates us. I have never considered myself a director in the strict sense of the term. More and more, I feel like playing with my friends, and always sharing with them, whether it’s sharing tools, or the text, or poetry, or a glance. That’s what interests me about theatre, this continual sharing, these exchanges, these confrontations, these communal joys! It’s nourishing, and it’s what lets us age intelligently.

It’s important to say it again and again: you can’t do theatre alone. This can be seen in the way that each play is presented: there is no hierarchy.

Putting abilities into hierarchies can kill a lot of things in theatre. In fact, it’s urgent to get away from that, to extend this spirit of a natural community that brings us together and questions us. It must be enhanced and put into motion. That’s what we need to put on the stage.

Interview conducted by Eugénie Pastor