Jean-Guy Lecat interview 7 04 2006
Published in Finnish Theatre Magazine: Teatterilehti 5/2006.
Space is Scenography
Now for me, in the age I have, if I work to this company until the end, it will be much more difficult to change and do something different. Once you’ve worked with a man like
RH: Yes, that comes out quite clearly in the book Open Circle (Todd & Lecat 2003), in which you say you suggested opening the large window in the back of the stage for the ending in the production of Mahabharata.
J-GL: Yes. It was a door.
RH: One of the persons interviewed for the book reflects on
J-GL: Yes, that was my idea. I suggested it to
RH: In my dissertation Tahdon tiellä (Where there's a
J-GL: The answer is very simple. If the play is very good and well done, we don’t need the scenography.
RH: But you do choose the place where the play is to be performed.
J-GL: Yes, but that is a different matter. First, we naturally need an idea. Once we have the idea, we need a text to express this idea. Then the text has to be performed by actors and received by the audience. So we need at least an idea, a text and an audience. Right after that we need costumes. Even if the actors are nude, we use it to express something. There is a point in the costumes.
RH: It might be a bit boring to watch nude actors in ten different plays.
J-GL: Absolutely. It’s boring but it’s a made decision. Nudity is not neutral, and that’s why we need costumes, sometimes the costumes are more neutral than nude people. You also need light in a theatrical performance, even if you use sunlight when putting out a play outside. You need light to see.
RH: But you choose the place for the performance.
J-GL: Yes, but that comes afterwards. These are the minimum requirements for doing theatre anywhere. You can put on a play in the street, or on a ferry…
Reija: But if you have a show in the street it creates a different atmosphere than…
J-GL: Yes, and that’s the problem. You have to perform somewhere. If the play is on a beach, it tells you something. When you tell a story of this theatre, there is no story of the theatre. There is only a story of space. For example, when you build an Elizabethan theatre, it’s difficult to have scenographies. You have to focus on following the space behind the actors more than on building a set. The tradition in
The space of the stage is empty. But do we have to build a set because the theatre hasn’t been designed properly nor do we need the space of the theatre because the play needs the theatre? What
We have transformed many warehouses, many spaces, which were not theatres. When you use a space like this, the audience is inside the same space with the play. They are sharing something, because they are inside the set. When you build a set on stage, you separate the audience, so they are only watching, not sharing the experience.
RH: But you can’t do it if you can’t change the space of the theatre.
J-GL: What do we mean by changing? It depends from one space to another. Sometimes you can just mask the walls and connect the audience to the space.
RH: I believe that’s scenography, in a way.
J-GL: Yes, because it’s a part of the fourth wall.
RH: Yes, it’s a wall but it’s also the creation of a world, the whole visual world of the play.
J-GL: Of course you can decide that the theatre is the scenography, but that’s not what designing a set is about. It is about something we have added, whether it connects with the play or not. Sometimes we don’t even need a set and sometimes we only need a floor or a change of colour.
Simplification creates depth
In addition for
In Lecat’s opinion,
Once they started creating a play, there were objects outside the area of the stage, used as helpful elements in the improvisations of the actors. As the work progressed, they were always faced with the moment, when it was time to get rid of the objects – to walk on the path toward simplicity.
“These days there are many uninteresting performances, where the actors use all their time in moving the set pieces and props around. I don’t understand the point of this”,
For a long time the productional idea of
In Lecat’s career, architecture and theatre have always gone side by side. He transformed a show
Lecat recalls what it was like working when he was younger. He tells an anecdote, which to him describes the basic essence of theatre: “When we were working on Waiting for Godot, in Jean-Louis Barrault Theatre the actors used to ask Beckett : ”who these characters are and where are they coming from”.
Lecat enjoys the fact that everything is true from beginning to end in the small universe of the theatre. “But how do we make it all real?” he asks. In collaboration with
“For example, we have built approximately one hundred theatres in
Colours always tell something
When I enquire the reason for the theatre’s red walls, Lecat answers that the walls of the Bouffes du Nord haven’t always been red, but that the colour of the space must always have its roots in the content of the text. The colours of The Tempest were white and green. Mahabharata was pink. Red is more contemporary, and originates from Pelléas, which was a play about a 19th century composer and his studio. Lecat thinks that colours always have to be connected to the play in performance. “Theatre survived for two thousand years without black. Now we are not only painting stages in black colour, but theatres as well. They became completely dead. There is no reason for this. I have never seen a beautiful black, always this stupid shade of grey”,
“Theatre survived for two thousand years without black. Now we are not only painting stages in black colour, but theatres as well. They became completely dead. There is no reason for this. I have never seen a beautiful black, always this stupid shade of grey”,
The more we show, the less we say
“We think that we’re doing something extremely clear, but the result is the exact opposite”, Lecat remarks with a warm laugh. “You spend half your life to figure out that life isn’t endless and that there isn’t an infinite amount of time to express yourself. Once you’ve found that out, the rest of your life is short.”
The writer is Doctor of Art and Scenographer.