Le Concert Incroyable


"A lemur's nervous eyes; a coelacanth with razor-sharp teeth, its mouth wide open awaiting its prey; a mangabey on the alert; hundreds of animals, birds, and fish are watching us, waiting for a signal before pouncing, escaping, flying, or leaping. There they are, frozen in time – stuffed - some of them centuries-old, others more recent. I can feel the tiny sweaty hand of my grandson Adrien in mine, faced with these empty shells, morbid images behind the windows of the Grande Galerie de l’évolution, in the annexes dedicated to extinct or endangered species... I decide to write a scenario based on the shock of this first encounter.

Alexandre Desplat composes the music and beautiful lyrics for forty chorus singers. Real voices and recorded music are to mingle. Mary and I are astounded to discover how quickly and efficiently the choirmaster, in just six sessions, manages to get the singers to remember and sing these complex scores. Some of the bass of the recorded music is cut to prevent the butterflies' wings from falling off. We were lucky enough to benefit from Alexandre's talent before he left to collect awards in Hollywood and around the world for his musical scores.

Students from the Jacques Lecoq musical school, accompanied by some of our actors, play in fake windows and then pretend to be a group of hunters on safari, before ending up as pedestrians in a megalopolis inspired by Manhattan...

The public stands around the upper galleries, opposite images of huge bay windows opening onto a cloudy sky. They close to the sound of the metallic click of prison doors, a first projection introducing darkness. An incandescent and echoing magma rises from the depths, covering exposed elements. Progressively, the huge caravan emerges from a snow-storm, windows light up here and there, a bride, lying on the floor, spins around in a repetitive movement, while giving birth. A Father Christmas removes his hood revealing a monkey's head. A hunter, frozen in mid walk, holds a lead with a dog's skeleton on the end. A burst of beautiful song suddenly rings out. Alexandre Desplat used the human voice like an organic substance. When I first hear it, I am pierced and overwhelmed by this female voice choir, supported by a male voice choir, which expresses feelings that cannot be put into words.

Two hostesses explain the most effective techniques for killing each species to a group of hunters on safari. A cloud of insects projected onto the hunters transforms the space into a giant hive, reminiscent of the flies and grasshoppers I faced with Michiko in Australia. The caravan goes through a fire, which sets the walls of the edifice alight. The public finds themselves bathed in a sea of flames. The projection of a moving ground accentuates the impression of the flight of motionless animals.

A downpour of rain and the cathedral is transformed into Noah's ark. It rocks and heels; an ark whose rusty metal beams look like the hull of a petrol tanker, an oil slick floats in the bottom of the hold. The Erika tanker disaster two years earlier and the pollution of the coasts of Brittany was still fresh in people's minds.

The final curse: Mankind. The walls of the great gallery sparkle with countless points of light, a forest of skyscrapers appears - a megalopolis - and the great caravan takes one of the main roads. The singers and actors are transformed into pedestrians, reading their newspapers, walking here and there, indifferent to the animals. At each end there are a couple of bodybuilders in swimming trunks, lying on deckchairs with an illuminated tubular frame, sipping a fluorescent green liquid while watching a giant, vertical television screen. An explosion of light – met with a deafening noise - spreads over one of the buildings in slow motion. The pedestrians are frozen, their eyes fixed on the point of impact. Two other explosions of light follow. Façades, animals, and passers-by spread out. Fragments of black and white images of towns bombarded during the last war are projected on the floor. The gallery is plunged into darkness. Only the bodybuilders remain, still glued to their screen. The interminable fall of a man, with the building's windows rushing past behind him. In one of the windows, surgeons stand around an operating table, listening to the last beats of a heart… Darkness.
A very harsh light projects long shadows of animals onto a cratered lunar surface, while the sound of a child singing becomes louder.

The performances took place in May and were extended until June 2001. A few months later, we looked on in horror as the attack of the World Trade Center was broadcast on our televisions. The final scenes of Concert Incroyable seemed, in hindsight, to be troublingly premonitory."

Paysages intérieurs, pp. 184-194 © Actes Sud