Passagers clandestins


"Rob Brookman in Australia produced our very first shows. More than just an organiser, Rob became a loyal friend and he dreamed of producing one of our creations...

In Australia, state support for cultural activities is very limited, and Rob offers us very strict conditions: four months of rehearsals and a maximum of five actors. The actors, technicians and composers must also be Australian.
For us, four months is a huge challenge, but in Australia it's already a great luxury. We accept the impossible... but ultimately, the impossible is just a possibility among others. We were only inflexible on one point; our plastics artist Martin Rézard had to come with us.

In April of 1990, we started lengthy auditions for dancers and actors throughout Australia, and then, during the last stage in Adelaide, we chose our actors after a week-long course before heading back to France. I had just six months left to write the exact framework of the show. Australia, a country on the other side of the world, is dissociable from this introspection that turned my relationships with people and objects upside down. Rob's order is a like a sign; an invitation to rephrase this quest – already translated into words with the intimacy of Sigmund follies – through an almost exclusively visual show in a more extensive form. I draw inspiration from my analytical and dreamlike Australian wanderings. I delved into them and adapted many elements from dreams. I imagine my fugitive, Alex, exploding into multiple personalities, in the form of four stowaways, freaks who are in fact a fractioned image of my own self. They inhabit James, the central character, chasing him from one dimension to another, running through his internal landscapes. This is the synopsis written to present it to Rob:

When the desert burns on the horizon.
When the planes fall.
When the telegrapher's lamp explodes.
When the kangaroos sing the blues.
A haunting corpse surfaces in James's memory, while he sinks within himself.
The clouds and the sea freeze.
Eyes stare at him; freaks' eyes…
The eyes of a dwarf, a hunchback, a gentle giant, a sensual armless woman…
Monsters from a freak show, who are just like him; they are him.
They lead Ernest in a search for his buried memories…

What can an internal landscape represent? A place where men face their demons in a physical confrontation with materials, objects used for a purpose that is not their primary function, figures that are extensions of themselves, metaphors for their psychological conflicts... In Stowaways, an undulating balloon sail covered in fishnet - an ocean, a desert, and stratocumulus at the same time - causes repressed memories, hidden stories, and his father's body to resurface. These constantly changing landscapes open the possibility for multiple interpretations.

As the rehearsals with our Australian actors progress, I learn to stop rationalising my intuition, to stop justifying why and how. When I try to explain a situation, they stop me and ask me to give them an image and a theme before immediately launching themselves into the game. We make good progress...

At a time when Franco-Australian relations where at an all-time low due to Jacques Chirac restarting nuclear testing in the Pacific, Stowaways goes very close to being shut down. We were saved by the fact that the team of actors, the composer Ian MacDonald, the technicians, and the decorators are all Australian. Ultimately, Stowaways comes out to great popular and critical acclaim. A world tour is then organised: Sydney, New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Barcelona…"

Paysages intérieurs, pp. 164-170 © Actes Sud