Interview with Lorenzo Malaguerra


Why did you decide to work on a Samuel Beckett play?

Beckett explored the limits of theatre. His writing concerns the body as much as the voice; it’s very choreographic writing and is extremely precise about everything that should happen on stage. I really like this precision, this requirement that is in place and puts the author back at the centre of the theatre machine. Beckett does stage writing, in the sense that we understand it today; in this way, he’s very contemporary, and I’d even say that he is more contemporary than all the others. And then his work also has this terrible humour, with scathing intelligence, that shows us twisted beings grappling with their humanity, which can be wretched or sublime.

And why did you choose Waiting for Godot? It’s a well-known play but it isn’t produced all that often.

Today, Waiting for Godot is not at all absurd, abstract, or theoretical about the human condition. Waiting for Godot is Sangatte, it’s the walls that people bump up against when they go from one place to another looking for something better. Waiting for Godot is all these no man’s lands of contemporary migration. For us, the metaphor is very clear, it’s almost literal. On the one hand there are two beings stuck there, two Africans, and on the other, two Europeans who have escaped from a circus or something similar and who show all the emptiness and lack of meaning of our consumerist societies. The meeting is obviously impossible: it’s horribly funny in its perfect absurdity.

You specify in the directors’ note that “the text will be respected in its entirety, and the staging will use no sound.” What are the implications of such a decision, from a directing perspective?

I find this restriction very interesting, and ultimately very enjoyable even. When you read a Bach score, there’s no question of adding notes or taking them away. Beckett doesn’t say anything other than this: it’s written like this and not any other way. This characteristic questions the central role that the director has taken in the second half of the 20th century. The director, in this case, is more an orchestra conductor than a “creator,” a title that directors tend to use and abuse. Plus, this restriction doesn’t prevent us from having to find staging solutions: how should we represent the tree? How should we interpret Lucky’s monologue? In this way, the “how” becomes much more important than the “why”, which we get from Beckett’s instructions. In any case, the “why” of Godot is infinite. I think that in fact the interest of the play, for the director as well as for the actors, is almost technical: resolving problems of acting, scenery, and lighting.

The way in which Vladimir and Estragon are cast gives the text a political dimension. Can you expand on this question?

As I said already, for us, Waiting for Godot today has a very clear political meaning and impact. As artists, we owe it to ourselves to defend certain fundamental values, which are jeopardized here, elsewhere, everywhere, to varying degrees. Putting on this play is also a chance to recall the artist’s role in an open, democratic society.

This is not the first time you’ve worked with Jean Lambert-wild. Were you familiar with this collective working approach previously?

Not in this way. Of course I have affinities with certain artistic collaborators, but the fact of forming a team to build a project is something new that I like a lot. With Jean, we quickly discovered a real affinity even though our personalities are very different. I’m really delighted with this collaboration on Waiting for Godot because I think that it will let us tap into the best in each of us. I really like the way actors direct, and I’m very sensitive to the way that Jean inhabits the theatre. He is someone completely unique in the French-speaking scene: for him, there are no limits, all theories are open, and this produces theatrical objects that are filled with poetry and strangeness. What bring us together, I think, is our wish to make great gentleness and great violence live together on the stage. In a word, we both love tragedy!

Jean speaks of his “theatre family,” and this approach is at the heart of his work and his poetic project. How is this part of your own artistic project?

I think that when Jean speaks of family, he means people who share not aesthetics, but very high standards and an elevated idea of theatre. His programming at the Comédie de Caen shows this. The difference between us is that Jean is building an oeuvre, which he is achieving in methodical fashion. I don’t consider myself a visionary! On the other had, I think as he does that the fact of finding friends, of working with them in great faithfulness is perhaps the only way to undertake a coherent artistic project. And that is where I have things to learn from the way Jean works: he has understood that the director is not a creator but that what creates the work is a group of people, objects, and words, on and off stage.

It seems to me that this project also contains the idea that the play should be “nomadic,” that it can be adapted to a variety of stages and spaces. Is this important for you? And does this mean that the show can be produced at the Théâtre du Crochetan and at the Comédie de Caen?

We’re living through a time of great crisis, in France a least, a bit less in Switzerland. It is important for productions to take into consideration the drastic reduction in funds while still guaranteeing very good quality. That is the spirit of this project. It’s both ambitious and economical. The fact of playing on different stages is also part of the stakes: letting smaller theatres schedule an ambitious play and letting big theatres host a show adapted to their size. The project is built around poetic and economic questions, since one is not the enemy of the other. And, then, just like the characters in Waiting for Godot, we are beings in migration.

Interview conducted by Eugénie Pastor 


 18 avril 2013