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    Festival d’Automne à Paris
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Portrait Romeo Castellucci 2014

Romeo Castellucci

Go down, Moses


    • Théâtre de la Ville
      November 4 to November 11

    Romeo Castellucci has always been inhabited by Moses, and by the journey, role and visions of this “pillar of our culture”. Carried along by the Tablets of Stone, the prophet was one of the recurring figures in Tragedia Endogonidia. In Go down, Moses, his character goes, to a certain extent, behind the scenes of the episodes of his life. These episodes, projected into the present day, pave the way for the director’s investigation into the archeology of shapes and their lastingness. He reflects upon the abandonment of Moses, as a baby, along the Nile, the mystery of the burning bush, the forty days he spent on Mt. Sinai and descent with the Tablets of Stone. The director does not touch upon them in any chronological order, but through going back and forwards in time and taking unexpected detours, via intentionally “non-decodable” scenes. Romeo Castellucci continues his investigations into the power of the image through the opposition between two images: the golden calf and the burning bush, “this fire which burns without burning anything, with no object”. Thus, what we have is two sides of the same coin, and two opposing cults or cultures. On one side we have its weight in gold and consumption, and on the other, spirituality and consummation. Of course, Go down, Moses is also a reference to the familiar negro spiritual, and to a time when Afro-American slaves dreamt of their emancipation, a sort of second exodus from Egypt. As the director himself says, it is to our humble selves - “exiled from our own being” - that the divine injunctions to Moses are in fact addressed.

    Directed, lighting, set, and costume design by Romeo Castellucci
    Music, Scott Gibbons
    Texts, Claudia Castellucci, Romeo Castellucci
    With: Gloria Dorliguzzo, Luca Nava, Stefano Questorio, and Sergio Scarlatella, Emmanuelle Ohl, Patricia Schillaci, Claude Penseyres, Pierre Imhof, Jules Hox et Hakan
    Set builder, Massimiliano Peyrone
    Lighting assistant, Fabiana Piccioli
    Live sculptures, prosthesis, Giovanna Amoroso, Istvan Zimmermann
    Costumes, Laura Dondoli
    Assistanat for Sound composition, Asa Horvitz
    Financial controller, Massimiliano Coli
    Production, Benedetta Briglia, and Cosetta Nicolini
    Promotion and communication, Gilda Biasini,Valentina Bertolino
    Administration, Michela Medri, Elisa Bruno, Simona Barducci

    Executive producer Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio // A coproduction with Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne ; deSingel International Arts Campus/Antwerp ; Teatro di Roma ; La Comédie de Reims ; Maillon, Théâtre de Strasbourg / Scène Européenne ; La Filature, Scène Nationale de Mulhouse ; Festival Printemps des Comédiens (Montpellier) ; Athens Festival 2015 ; Le Volcan, Scène nationale du Havre ; Adelaide Festival 2016 (Australia) ; Peak Performances 2016, Montclair State-USA ; Théâtre de la Ville-Paris ; Festival d’Automne à Paris // In collaboration with Théâtre de la Ville-Paris ; Festival d’Automne à Paris // The show is part of the Paris-Rome 2014 cultural tandem, put in place by the cities of Paris and Rome in partnership with the Institut français.
    With thanks to the Comune di Senigallia et Assessorato alla Promozione dei Turismi e Eventi / Amat for their collaboration
    The piece was first presented in 2014 at Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne
    In partnership with France Culture

    Approaching the unrepresentable
    Resistance against obliteration
    Romeo Castellucci is one of the major theatre reformers of the XXth century. Since his first links with the stage, over thirty years ago, he has never stopped investigating the stuff of theatre, right down to its very foundations. Each piece is the result of a painstaking reflection on the origins and ends of what might justify the practice of theatre-making today. He does this by the grace of that all-resisting, against all odds, archaism: the human being in all its representations. His achievement belongs to that category of work which succeeds in relaying our dealings with the character, its psychology, and intrigues in a world of allegories, verdicts, smells, colours and sounds, but which no longer involves the following of the narration of a fable, rather a mental journey across various blocks where unexpected connections arise between different kinds of objects. Each scene, the meaning of which is never “revealed”, has an element of the parable about it, and plays on elements ranging from the highly trivial to the ethereal. By questioning what has filtered and spread into theatre from other artistic, philosophical or religious, scientific or technological fields, each of Romeo Castellucci’s works alerts our senses, and shakes us to the core, both physically and spiritually. In somewhat broad terms, his work has been classified as a “theatre of images”, though the “image” is only one of the constituent parts of a complex investigation into figures and representation, encompassing the body, object, verb, space, light and time.

    Whenever the Festival d’Automne, with the complicity, on a regular basis, of the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, invites Socìetas Rafaello Sanzio, Romeo Castellucci’s company, to Paris, this latter has taken the Italy of the era of its omnipotent directors, namely Strehler and Ronconi, to a form of modernity that Carmelo Bene, in particular, had made inroads into. The work of the Rafaello company unfurls a fabric of references to Western thought and art at their most significant, ranging from the Sumerian statues to art-language. Hence, the confrontation of the oversized (and turned into black and white) Salvator Mundi by Antonello da Messina, with the underground reference to the work of the artist Piero Manzoni becomes the focal point of Sul concetto di volto nel foglio di Dio (“On the concept of the face, Regarding the son of God”). The same applies to in The Four Seasons Restaurant, where the developing storm set against a mannerist photograph from the XIXth century, encounters the works of Rothko, An even more potent anchorage point in the director’s work is that of literature, irrespective of genre. The search for the mot juste, noun, and its roots drives all the onstage developments. The subtitle of the Raffaello company’s Lucifero (1993) carried the following indication: “The older a word is, the deeper it goes”. Switching back and forth provides a measure of depth. Going from from the Bible to Shakespeare, from Aeschylus to Artaud or from Hawthorne to Hölderlin, and from the aleph to constellations of words, is a form of resistance against our own obliteration, a invocation to song and silence, and an affirmation, through the verb itself, of the staying power of the human being, even when it appears to have withdrawn from the stage.

    Representation and its consumption

    How do we approach the unrepresentable? Such is the question posed via the mention of the word Auschwitz in Genesi. And in the work entitled, From the Museum of Sleep, presented by the Festival d’Automne à Paris in 2000.In the words of Romeo Castellucci, “From Cain onwards, all acts of creation carry within them a black stone or core, its negative charge, and the power of this non-being undermines, from the inside, each claim to our existence. As such, this is a Genesis read and represented through the eyes of Cain, full of the tragic knowledge of emptiness.” The work is divided into three acts: In Principio (Berêsit); Auschwitz; and Cain and Abel. After the darkness of the “Beginning” - the In Principio which opens the Old Testament - in which the naked, deformed bodies of Adam and Eve writhe under a bombardment of signs and symbols - Auschwitz drowns the stage in a blinding light. A milky world full of softness and kindness, in which small children take up pared-down poses, as if observed from afar. In Act III, Cain, with only a stump for his left arm, confronts his father, while two dogs are unleashed onto the stage. The stage starts to pulsate with the effects of a tell-tale heart, its mortal flesh palpitating as it drums out the funeral drone. The myth allows History to be heard, and giant flames consume what is representable.

    Presented the same year at the Festival d’Automne à Paris, Il Combattimento dai Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi, Libro VIII by Monteverdi was matched up against Combattimiento in liquido, an original composition by Scott Gibbons. The work featured a mixture of history, war, love and conception, blood and sperm, chemistry and physics, the baroque and electro. It resembled a mechanical ballet of an extraordinary nature, lead by hydraulic pantographs used in industrial painting, turning the set into a three-dimensional Pollock-like painting. Julius Caesar (1997), presented by the Festival the following year, brought together snatches of Shakespeare with those of Latin historians. And another murder. The father and the “son”. As Romeo Castellucci says, “I always saw the murder of Julius Caesar (same initials as Jesus Christ) as a euphoric and gentle eucharist, celebrated by Brutus”. Questions about the notion of statues and rhetoric arose. And with it, the figure of Cicero, literally full up to bursting point with the excess of discourse, and whose back is tattooed with double bass sound-holes. Then came Anthony, severely lacking discourse, subjected to a tracheotomy, the only way to seek out the vibrations of the voice being via endoscopy (performed live on stage).

    Though minor-orientated, Bucchettino (Little Thumb) is a mark of the importance of fairy-tales and the fantastical in the work of Romeo Castellucci. The primeval forest spreads in Tragedia Endogonidia, as it does in Parsifal, with its witches and ogres. The question of infancy in theatre and the infancy of theatre remains an essential one. As Romeo Castellucci reminds us, “Infancy, traced back to its Latin roots, is synonymous with the non-attainment of language”. And his work in theatre has been relentless in its search for the constitution of a language. The theme of infancy reappeared, once again, in 2004, in the Festival d’Automne’s revival of his adaptation of the Hamlet myth, Amleto. La veemente esteriorità della morte di un mollusco (1992). On a blackboard, an autistic youth, still in his prime, puts up graphs of a life divided by “To be AND not to be”. In 2006, Hey Girl! was proof of another departure from infancy. In it, Romeo Castellucci addressed a very contemporary-looking, young woman his “Je vous salue Marie...”, a series of enigmatic tableaux bursting with colours, bathed in the wondrous, the magical.

    The tragic look

    In between times, during the 2003 Festival d’Automne, the Ateliers Berthier were the scene of the sixth episode of “Tragedia Endogonidia” : P.#06 Paris. The Tragedia Endogonidia forms a cycle of eleven pieces which has no known precedent in theatre, rooted in the history of ten European cities. The cycle was staged from 2002 to 2004 ,and constituted a gigantic, eleven-sided polyhedron. The piece dealt with the end of tragedy in its original configuration and the difficulty of reinventing the tragic form. “There is no such thing as a tragic look worthy of that name, meaning that there is no look exists which is capable of creating a human community through its own strength alone. This is the task of the theatre in the future.”, wrote Romeo Castellucci at the time. Jesus goes in through a window, questions the Sphinx, and Hamlet’s skull, perhaps. Policemen, taken straight from an American vaudeville of some sort, reenact the sacrifice of Isaac on top of washing machines. French flags stick out from from walls, flapping amidst the void, long live the Liberation! The stage is set for the arrival of De Gaulle. Three cars fall from the ceiling. One, two, or three monotheism? The figure of the crucified reappears on the roof of one of the cars, carried up by a man in a red top-hat. Once again we have aleph and beth, sat astride a horse which fades from black to white.

    After the much talked-about Divina Commedia at the Festival d’Avignon (2008), the work of Romeo Castellucci headed off in a new direction. Romeo Castellucci talked of this new departure in terms of “a more transparent reading, with a pent-up form of energy, rather than an explosive one.” Sul concetto di volto nel foglio di Dio, presented at Théâtre de la Ville and CENTQUATRE-PARIS in 2012 bore witness to this new approach. It continued with The Four Seasons Restaurant in 2013, one element of a new cycle, entitled Voile noir du Pasteur, inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Minister’s Black Veil. The work is not “organized” like Tragedia, but reveals itself through a process of unveiling - with the veil thickening all the while. Each new work is the occasion for him to go back to the drawing board of theatre, by focusing on this indomitable notion of the unrepresentable. As will be the case in the three pieces presented at this year’s Festival d’Automne: in Schwanengesang D744, a process of unveiling, layer by layer, will enable us to contemplate the performer’s “palimpsest body”; The Rite of Spring will see the springing into action of the danced traces, left hovering in the air, by an ancestral world; and, lastly, in Go Down, Moses, we will be invited to probe into the burning bush, this “dialogue with fire that leads to the burning of all images.”

    Jean-Louis Perrier