The last few days have been so intense that it deserved an article.
I must admit that it is a pleasure to be back on stage. I have no professional or even regular experience of the stage. The stage is a powerful metaphor: it embodies life itself. Every day we live a role and there, we live a scene within the big scene. It is also Plato's cave: but are we the shadows or the actors whose shadows are projected?
I was intrigued by the form of forum theatre (apparently more common here) and I am very proud to be part of such a project for its social and psychological dimension. Forum theatre is a theatrical form that aims to make society better by highlighting oppressor-oppressed relationships. Individually, seeing these realistic scenes, one can become aware of one's position but above all, have the opportunity to find a way out, to confront one's oppressor and to finally get out of the fear, from this ball in the stomach, from this uncontrollable paralysis. Everyone is empowered to stop these toxic behaviours, to change the way everyone looks at them: oppressor, oppressed and (passive) witness. We have probably all been in this situation one day.
"Les Éloquentes" showed six short scenes about sexism, aggressions (and micro-aggressions) and racism. After a first act, actors played again the scene in order to give the opportunity to the audience of coming on stage and offering another proposition. Different members of the audience could come on stage. This role play was done in a safe and respectful manner by the stage manager.
I am also happy to have met the other actors, pro and amateur: Sonia Assier, Maxime Barbier from La Boussole, Ingrid Broussillon from Les Griottes Polyglottes, Lucie Couhailler, Marion Gailet, Gabriel Jalbert, David Prière and Slim Rouissi, the excellent playmaker, Emmanuelle Bertrand, the extraordinary stage manager, Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez (also an actress) and the impressive Maryse Beaujean Weppenaar from Réseau Femmes and all the organisers of this project. I really felt like I was part of a group with values, really thinking about the relevance of attitudes, gestures, the reception of the audience.
The actors, both women and men, put themselves in the position of vulnerability and dominance (not easy either because it is not their nature, but they are courageous to accept to put themselves in these characters to denounce these behaviours).
Both performances were very emotional. Getting into my character was both easy and difficult. Easy because I had already gone to the police and encountered their indifference and condescension. Difficult because I don't wear the veil and I'm not Muslim. I was very stressed to embody this character as well as possible, especially as during the second performance, the impressive Nour Elnayeh came to see me. It's her story and I wanted to interpret it as accurately as possible.
The audience was extraordinary. They played the game and people came on stage to fight back, to confront the oppressors. I find this very courageous and so strong: this gesture is a step forward for oneself but the social dimension resonates even more strongly. These different proposals for outcomes, formulations and arguments plant seeds of courage and reflection for everyone. Both performances were sold out.
Ironically, we went to a bar after the first performance and a man approached our table (of nearly ten people, after all!) to approach one of the people who had participated in writing the project. This tall, bald, pot-bellied man insisted and our whole team joined in. I was ready to jump down his throat. But as our dear playwright reminds us at the beginning of the performance, violence is not the answer. But it's incredible that we had practical work after the workshops!
I was discussing with Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez, the fact that I had already had a superb collaboration with another Natalie (Vella), an Australian I met in Paris. The funny thing is that I met another Natalie, of a different origin than in the country where we live, who is also a film director. And Nathalie Lopez-Gutierrez explains to me that she too has collaborated with another Nathalie. The world of Nathalie is smaller than one might think...
The boomerang feeling
When you wait, it's better. People say that about many things. It's not wrong in the end...
Conducting a workshop in general is terribly enriching, both for the participants and for the person conducting it. But here, a writing workshop, especially a theatrical one, for La Boussole is a real joy. It's very touching to hear others talk about their experiences, their values. Of course, I always do this in the context of journalism, but here I guide and help build.
Speaking of writing, I finally met Daniel Viragh in person, whom I interviewed for The Source. I talk about him later in this article.
I also attended Louis-Jean Cormier's concert as part of the Coup de Coeur Francophone. It was so good to finally witness live art again that I cried. Well, I also totally fell in love with Louis-Jean Cormier's music, his deep lyrics and his stellar music. It felt like a show meant for a larger venue and more dancing, as Louis-Jean Cormier himself said. We were all well spaced out because of Covid but it was a great chance to finally see a show in person.
I was talking to several people, artists and aspiring artists, about this feeling of creative congestion. The pandemic and especially its collateral damage has led to a withdrawal into oneself, into one's space; it may have been beneficial for introspection but also stifling. I think we had the impression of going in circles like a lion in a cage. What really made me pick up the pen creatively, what made me pick up my guitar and try to sing, what made me pick up my pencil and sketch, was the encounter in the real world with other people. That has always been my driving force. Sartre said, "Hell is other people", but I can't bring myself to do that.
I have often been called an idealist, but this label is not pejorative for me. What would the world be without ideals? What would the world be like without idealists, those madmen who build human cathedrals? Grabbing me by the collar and forcing me to engage in human projects (which I have always loved) was my salvation from the doldrums of my apathy and I highly recommend it.
I think we need to physically go _as much as possible with the Covid_ to places that are conducive to quality exchanges with other humans.
The pandemic and lockdown has put us in bubbles, small settings, and the return to unity, to community, is pushing some of us into beautiful projects. We are like drops, gradually forming a river of individuals, left alone, flowing down slopes and valleys to find ourselves in the ocean of humanity. Let us hope that we can form positive waves. At least, I would like to think so.
I am finally meeting in person some of the people I interviewed for The Source. I had the chance to have coffee with Daniel Viragh and was extremely touched that he offered me a version of his book of poems, 'The Ballad of the Free' available on Amazon. He is an impressive man, speaking so many languages. This is his first publication in French. I was very touched by all the poems but my favourites are "Juge-moi pas" and "Tout comme je suis, comme tu es".
Poetry comes back into my life in different forms, sometimes quite extravagant. I remember one day in the metro in Paris where a poet was declaiming. I looked at him and smiled. He saw it and said hello to me, thanking me in that small crowded metro train. I didn't know where to put myself because I was just trying to blend in, in the walls if possible at that time.
Another time, I was in Reunion Island. I was showing some English friends around Reunion Island and we were on the beach at l'Ermitage after a windy helicopter flight. An elderly man was swimming with another person. When he got out of the water and dried off, he came up to us and offered us a copy of his poems.
A sunny day in autumn
Vancouver's autumn sunshine is exceptional because it is rare, and usually you have to rush outside to get your vitamin D fix. Anything is an excuse to go out; non-urgent errands, a squirrel to follow, checking a hopelessly empty mailbox: find anything to open that door and throw yourself out into the street. Everything is so calm after the storm and so beautiful. With no wind, this day has tasted like spring. The peaks lightly dusted with snow announce the festivity of winter.
But despite the rare rays of sunshine, November is THE month of rain in Vancouver. However, some people haven't seen this in at least 15 to 20 years. Alas, more flood victims and more flooding of this atmospheric river are predicted. The lulls are short-lived and the water has not yet had time to recede before the heavy rainfall starts again.
It must be said that when it rains in the region at this time of year, it is a deluge. At first I thought it was a bit of a stretch to see some people carrying umbrellas AND hoods. Until the rain soaked my umbrella to the point that it rained under my umbrella! I have since adopted this very Vancouver outfit.