French artist PHILIPPE GENTY puts more than a dash of psychology into his shows, which mix dance and puppetry. He reveals more in a serious tete-a-tete with Miranda France.
t the beginning of the play we have a very small train crossing the stage with smoke, in the dark. And you don‘t see the train, you just see the windows. so you can see that it is a train by the several windows with the lights inside. and you can see the smoke. Now the train goes across the stage and you can‘t find out what is inside this train. because you are in the dark. Then the lights come up and. when the train has passed. there is on the stage a character with some luggage.He opens the luggage and inside there is another character which is very small and is tied up with rope. He unties the rope and frees the character which goes up into the air like a balloon. It is a puppet. Now while he‘s putting the rope together. he himself starts to raise up. about a metre or so. Then you realise just at this moment that he was also a puppet. before you couldn’t realise, you thought he was a real man
. . . It’s a trick of lighting which tricks the audience completely.’
Philippe Genty is a kind of psychologist in the world of dance, a conjurer, manipulating images and archetypes. And playing with perspective in a big way. The many characters in Derives. range from a tiny doll-like man to a bumptious, busty ogress, but only five at any time are played by human beings and you may be hard-pressed to discover the seams where real ﬂesh and fantasy meet.
Genty is certainly hard-pressed to give me a
‘neat description ofthe thing: ‘It is acting,
contemporary ballet and puppetry‘, he explains, in an improbably charming French accent. ‘There is a little puppetry. but not much. There is confrontation between the animated characters and the comedians. they are animated, really, in view of the people. of the audience.’ The substance of the show. he reveals. deals with a sort ofmetaphysical journey. ‘It's more or less the travel ofa character through his inner landscape. As if he were travelling in his own conﬂictural subconscious. So it’s a sort oftrip of initiation'. He was originally a graphic artist. Then. back in the days when people still read Kerouac. Genty
_ spent four bohemian years travelling the world
with a couple of friends in a ZCV. On his return he made a film on puppetry around the world for UNESCO's worthy-sounding project ‘Orient and Occident: Knowing each other through Arts‘. Since then his interest in puppetry and choreography has flourished and he is presently leading a workshop in Paris on the relationship between actor and object.
In this Festival atmosphere of plays-with- messages, it is refreshing to find that Genty likes to leave his audience with a number ofoptions. This is partly why he feels happy working with a medium which does not involve speech: “The thing is that very often the words are closing you. your imagination. into one direction. There are very. very few writers. like Samuel Beckett. who open the imagination. Usually words are made so that they bring out a formation in such a way that you have only one line to follow.
4Thc List 17—23 August 1990