Sunday, 12 June 2011

I Am The Wind by Jon Fosse/Patrice Chéreau. Of you and me, life and death

A few stray thoughts about the play I Am The Wind, which I saw last week and found very, very compelling. Luckily, I hadn't read any of those scathing, superior reactions in English newspapers beforehand or I might have screamed in pain during the performance. After I came home, quite in the grip of those powerful, poignant performances, and a staging and text I found hauntingly effective, I decided to check the earlier reviews (by default, all from the English press since the world premiere had been at the Young Vic and the French ones would only come out later in the week, during the Théâtre de la Ville run). They were almost unfailingly severe, coming down on all the elements I had loved most about the piece. Even The Guardian's reviewer was half-apologetic about liking it (but he did accord it four stars, hurrah!), "whatever it may mean, there is no denying the production's visual bravura." Michael Billington's review

That was one of the rare exceptions, by the way.

Why did they have to be so, so derisive about the writing? Call me an ingenue but I liked it. Like is an anaemic word, it does not reflect the sea of emotions the piece stirs up. I was shaken by the writing (and that includes the translation by Simon Stephens) and Richard Peduzzi's set design (entirely at the service of the story, no vain grandiloquence here) and the staging. The actors, Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey as The One and The Other, were tremendous. Their words and delivery, hesitant in one, urgent in the other, and the archetypes they portrayed, stayed in my head for days. But actors - like many other artistes - are seldom tremendous all by themselves, they seek direction. And Patrice Chéreau is an outstanding actors' director. Think Intimacy with its excoriating performances, think Son Frère (His Brother) with the microscopic examination of the descent into helplessness, the struggle with the pretzel called fraternity. But few of these reviews accorded him any credit for directing the actors.

Great art gives you clues into the labyrinth of one's own universe, and this one did, vastly different though mine is from the sea-raft-anchor reality of the Northern hemisphere Fosse inhabits. The elliptical beast that is time moves with no feet, in unending, repeated orbit.  Perhaps I needed another friend's thoughts on the piece to reveal why Laskey and Brooke felt like such familiar figures. They could be life and death in us. Action and curious despair. Nurture and abandon. The lure of the lightness there will be in an end and a fear of the weight of living. The need for words. The damnable need for words, words, words when they never really signify that thing. That thing you need, that thing you dread....

Only a week later, the landscape has changed considerable. The French media, in the usual magic mirror trick that the two cultures/medias (British/French) indulge in, are more than positive: they are almost reverential. Okay, that's just an aside. What anyone else, expert or otherwise, thought of the piece does not change the impact it had on me: one of illumination. Northern Lights.

No comments:

Post a Comment