ITF 2nd Theatre Seminar: Transforming Spaces for Theatre - Jean Guy Lecat
Duration: 01:16:32; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 11.342; Saturation: 0.137; Lightness: 0.233; Volume: 0.222; Cuts per Minute: 1.320; Words per Minute: 90.207
India Theatre Forum
intended to address the overall theme of "Spaces of Theatre, Spaces for Theatre" in a wider and holistic manner. It was held between 14 to 18 March 2012 in Ninasam, an extremely special theatre space in Heggodu village of Karnataka which has served as a community centre for over 50 years. The seminar intended to cover a gamut of related topics ranging from the relationship of performing "bodies" to space, to the actual physical spaces of performance, to the politics of the spaces in society , to the new virtual spaces opening up and to the future of Spaces. In other words, the seminar built on the understanding that the act of theatre is always more than simply an act of theatre. To think of theatre and its processes is, ipso facto, to think of its temporal and spatial specificities. However, the main approach of the seminar was not to develop an academic theory of the spaces of/for theatre but to sketch the contours of a "spaciology" of theatre as perceived by its practitioners.
A talk by Jean Guy Lecat on the various spaces he has transformed, building cheaply and sustainably and finding simpler ways to define and demarcate spaces without making them too expensive. As he puts it, if the director says, "I need an entrance," the set designer thinks 'door' and doors mean walls, and "then we begin to have something expensive and complicated".
Transcribed by Pravin KP.
The 2nd national seminar held by the
Ninasam, Heggodu, Karnataka
Bonjour! I will try to speak in English. My English is probably worse than Iain Mackintosh's french, but I will try. So, the the first image, is exactly what you should not do, and it is important to say everday that beacuse I see so many projects, that this idea of meeting, meeting between artists and the text, meeting of the audience and the artists and the audience, is so many times missed; which is for me the main dimension of this project. It is not just the play, it is much more than that. That is why I like theatre more than all the other things I have done. So, this is the serious project of an architect.
I want to start by reading three short texts: "We can veritably attribute the rate of success of performance spaces to the date of ignorance of acoustic and optic concepts on the part of those that are in charge of drawing them up. written in 17."
That was written in 1767.
The second text is from the great architect Louis Kahn. "To express oneself is to function. When we want presents we must consult nature that intervenes in the design. If you are considering bricks, for example, you must ask the brick 'what do you want bricks?', and the the bricks answer 'I want an arch.' You reply, 'arches are expensive, and I will be putting a concrete lintel above you. What do you think of this bricks?' The bricks answer, 'I want an arch'. It is important to understand that the material being used must be honoured. We do not waste it as if to say that materials are plentiful, we can do as we please. This is not true. We can only proceed by honouring the bricks. Glorify the bricks instead of (sweeping) it. "
And the last one is from the director of a theatre, (Maleo Gauntner) he is the director of the ps122. "The infrastructure around performance play a critical role. At ps122, which is this theatre in New York, we have just made the decision to tear out our blackbox theatre. The space is a former classroom used as a site for extraordinary artistic developments through the eighties and the nineties. In typical terms, it is far from ideal, with 3 or 4 metre ceiling, two midstage castiron structural pillars, alcoves and windows and it is a wide shallow space. It is a classroom where remarkable things happenned, despite or perhaps because of the physical limitations. Some years ago, it was painted black and permanent seating was put in. From an extraordinary but absolutely determining scene, space that required creativity both from the artists and the audience, it has turned into a predicatable and oppressive room. Not a particularly good theatre, not any longer one in which anything and everything can happen. Our relationship to the theatre is predefined. Coming to ps122 has become a known quantity. The above issue with the space is symptomatic of a broader artists malaise in preaching to the convert and showing us what we already know. Even the converts stopped coming after a time. Jean Guy Lecat who worked with Peter Brook, speaks of the indigence of the neutrality of the blackbox, and indeed the freedom allowed by a determined space. So will tear out the black masonite, remove the seating rig, peel back the black paint. Hopefully this will force our artists to make decisions about how to deal with room and in doing so again open its feild of possibilities.
So, those three texts are, not the basis of work , but something very important for me. First, we should not accept any kind of dictatorship, and architecture is one. Too many theatres are built without a necessary connection between the artist and the architect. This is why many young directors today want to escape from theatre and try to find what we can call found space. So, I'm going to show you the possibilities- and this is not a new idea, it exists now from the fifties and sixties. But, it existed also before that. Moliere played in a gymanasium. This is a girl in Afghanistan. Her school burned the day before from an American bomb and the day after, the girls came back to school. Because they thought that the school structure, the architecture has knowledge. That doesn't leave space for teachers! I don't think that space, for us theatre persons, is that important. We can play everywhere. But of course, it is better to play in a theatre.
I began working with many theatre directors, Jean Louis Barrault, Beckett and some others. This is the first image we have of a Beckett play. Beckett told me that when he wrote Godot
, he couldn't find anybody to give me money to open Godot
in Paris. He sent his wife with the text to all the theatres and nobody wanted to do it. Except one person, two years later, who did it in a very small theatre, which was half of this space here. And you can see the size of the stage. Now Beckett is very well known, and that is the situation of the young writer today.
In 1968, Jean Louis Barrault left the Odeon, pushed out by the Ministry of Culture. That was a revolution and that was a very sad thing. But Jean Loius Barrault had a lot of energy. And then he started again. And the first show he did after Odeon was on a boxing stage. He rented a place where they usually box and then with the Crazy Horse saloon girls, half nude, he made a fantastic chary play. The year after, he found an empty railway station and he rented the place. And we organised with the set and a tent and a little caravan. We organised a theatre. and the year after we build a solid real theatre. That temporary theatre existed at the entrance with all the set. There is train underneath. so, you see, the question is... it is urgent to play. anywhere. We cannot wait to have the right space. This is now the solid one, because, Jean louis Barrault had the idea of staying there and the train people rented the place fory very little money. That is the drawing I did. I worked with an architect at that time and we built a solid theatre in three months. Jean louis Barrault was there every morning, with a little sketch, since he had learnt architecture. So every morning he came with a very little peice of paper and suggested some kind of dressing room and we said 'Yes, of course. It is very good.' This is a view of the construction and the train underneath and that is the theatre. He made this theatre with his own money. Everybody accepted not to be immediately paid. He paid everybody with the money he made with the show. And that was the unique example of a private theatre built after the war, in France.
Of course the trains were underneath and one day Jean Louis Barrault came and ... his wife, Madeleine Renault, she had a beautiful voice but little. So, the trains disturbed sometimes, when they were underneath. Can we do something he asked me. So, I said... I was the technical director for him also at the time and I said let's talk to the chief of the station. So, iI organised a meeting with the Chief of the station who said 'let's see.' So we went with the stage manager, the text, a stopwatch, and then we started to read the text. And the chief of the station said 'Stop! I have a train' And then for ten years the chief of the station moved the trains under the street everyday that Jean Louis Barrault's wife played on stage.
I think theatre peolple are close to life, and that is why such things are possible. I you are making a movie you'd have to pay. I did work at the (?) for ten years, and at the same time I worked as a stage amanager and I did all the technical jobs in theatres. And we opened... one day I opened two spaces in the Avignon festival, too close to us. And we opened the Cartoucherie de Vincennes, with Jean Marie Serrault and ariane Mnouchkine. These are some images of the Cartoucherie.
So , when Peter Brook was looking for someone to organise an American tour, because for the bicentenary celebrations of America, the French government offered to America French artists. And Peter Brook was one of these artists. He is not really french, bt he was working in France. Peter Brook just found this place in Paris, and many artists, even Ariane Mnouchkine visisted this place which was destroyed by the owner who wanted to build a parking lot. A three tier, three levels of cars. very good idea, but the people around did not want a parking lot in the middle of the city. So, Peter Brook came, and he was the only one who went to the government and say ' We don't want to restore this theatre. Everybody wanted to restore this theatre and the French governement said that it is not the idea of the French governement to retore this theatre. But Peter Brook said 'we do nothing, just a new floor, the stage would disappear, we don't want to rebuild the stage. We'll just fix the ceiling, new electricity, security doors, and cover all that pile of concrete so that way it is not so expensive'
And the government agreed to do that and to give the theatre to Peter Brook, who paid rent for it the whole time he stayed there; until last year, he rented the theatre. So, the theatre was abandoned for at least ten years. The owner had the good idea of burning all the wood inside the theatre, so the theatre burned and the roof disappeared. Most of what I call the second half of what architecture is, disappeared. Architecture has two levels. The structure, proportions, walls, columns, and then decoration. It is very important for me these two directions because proportions and columns have no date. Any wall without decorations has no date. Decorations specifically say that this is seventeenth century or Greek times. This theatre had lost that. It was an extraordinary opportunity for Peter Brook to play anything in front of the wall and the wall can react and the walls could react and say we are participating without telling you another story from another time. Which would be the case if we had restored the theatre. This image is just to show, for me what kind of relationship we can have between actors, acting and and architecture.
There are just two kinds of space for theatre people in life - Nature and architecture. And both have to be reorganised in case we want to play. In case we bring a human being. For example when we play inside a quarry we have to reaplannt the trees, change the place of the rocks, take out some trees because nature is natural until you bring a human being inside. A friend of mine, architect, we built a theatre together in Lisbon, called the director one day and he asked when the theatre was closed. The director was very surprised: 'What do you want to do?', 'We want to take photos.' So, I asked this architect: 'Why don't you like human beings?, In the books of architecture today, there are no human beings. In the past, in the nineteenth century, they draw human beings everywhere. And now there are no human beings in architecure books.' He said: 'Of course, because human beings have the wrong proportions.' For me, it is exactly the opposite. Maybe I am completely wrong, but Ian showed yesterday a man- I don't beleive in the Golden Mean, but many people did so like Corbusier, or Leonardo da Vinci. But a human being has to be first, in the centre of everything, and therafter we bulid walls around. That is the way I worked with Peter Brook and the way I still work. What do we want to do inside? When, where we need the walls comes after.
When we mix these two images, the walls and the kid talk, then we know that now there is something dramatic. This image is a church in Liege, to show you something, just to express this idea of decoration and proportions. The first part of the church, looks younger. The back is Gothic, but this first part is the older part. It looks younger because of the decoration from the Baroque period. If you take out all the decorations, then side starts to be the oldest again. That's what happened at the Bouffes du Nord. It has no decoration, no time. Some people call that 'neutrality'. I don't think that is the proper word. Neutrality. Nothing is neutral in life. But it is important for a wall to say 'I ama wall, but I am not a wall from the eighteenth century. Then you can play in front of me Richard three or a play from today and I still work as a wall'.
Because the theatre was abandoned, we could do whatever we wanted, if we needed a window we made windows. When we needed a door we made a door. This would have been absolutely impossible had we restored the theatre. And I painted the wall with chalk, which we could take off after. In a good theatre, has a discreet wall, not neutral. But you have to tell the wall, like Louis Kahn speaks with bricks, you have to ask the wall: 'Can you sometimes, when I need a zoom, to focus on the actors important speech, can you be discreet? Just disappear.' There can be a wall who resists, who just doesn't want to go away. That is not a good theatre. Through the time I worked with Peter Brook, we have transformed the Bouffes du Nord a little. We have painted it for the first time. This is an image of the Mahabharata
. But my principal job with Peter Brook was to try to find a Bouffes du Nord outside of France or inside of France, all around the world where we made a huge tour. Necessary, because it was a possibility for Peter Brook to make money and to have enough time to work with the actors.
was done outside about six hundred times, nine hundred times altogether. Most of the plays were done outside more than one or two or three hundred times. The Bouffes du Nord outside does not exist, first, but it would be a big mistake to try... Ariane Mnouchkine carries the same idea everywhere and this is very expensive and she doesn't make any money. The idea of Peter Brook was not to carry the Bouffes du Nord outside the Bouffes du Nord, but to carry his spirit, which is some kind of atmosphere, colour, texture and distance. I just want to show you this image before.
My computer wants to work. I had a dream in New Zealand last year. I don't remember a dream normally, but this one I remember till today because, I threw my computer out the window and I see my computer being destroyed slowly by cars. It made me so happy.
These three men are the same height. Look now. That is just an example. When I teach students I show them many other examples, that the relationship between architecture and nature and human beings is strong. We never see the truth, we see something in relation. That is why it is important that architects try to work with theatre people. i said try.
This is one of the first places I transformed, in Caracas. I've transformed about two hundred spaces, I'm not going to show you all. Just a few examples. Half of the spaces we transformed were not theatres, it was found spaces. This was a theatre, destroyed and transformed into a car park. We talked with all the car owners to take the cars away. We played there and the theatre became a theatre again for several years, until the subway. Because architects in Caracas drew a straight line. The theatre was under this straight line and had to disappear.
I show you this image in relation to the one before. This is the natural way for human beings to sit to watch something without anybody to organise them. And this is the base of my work. Just to have something natural, that's it. That is the minimum we need. That is actor, space. Not necessarily sets.
This was a cloister in 19th century. A factory had a good idea to invest in the monastery and transform the cloister into a garage. This was a beautiful 16th century pink marble cloister. So, I asked them if we could just clean up and play inside this place one of the first shows we did with Peter Brook with The Conference of the Birds
. And we did so in a very simple way. Seats on three sides, a carpet on the floor. And we opened the windows, because windows say 'I'm decoration, this is a cloister of the 17th Century.' The columns were neutral enough. Until now the factory used this place for music, for exhibitions. But it never brought back the cars. This is interesting because this relates with the story of Jean Louis Barrault.
We should ask. We never know. If someone says no, they say no. Okay. But we never know, there is an abandoned place, you want to play in it and you think it is impossible. And then you ask and discover that it is possible.
With Peter Brook we played in a quarry in Adelaide. We changed the landing of airplanes. We stopped cars in Barcelona. We pushed the trains in Dusseldorf. Everything is possible, you just have to ask. And we came back some years later to do another production, with Peleas
, in the same cloister. These are the seats. You can see on top an acoustic ceiling, because for Peter Brooks it was most important that the audience sees well and listen well.
This is a gas container in Copenhagen. We wanted to play in another city. They showed me a place with a cross section, on the streets, it was much too noisy with the sound of cars. I received from some people a photo of this building and they wanted to present everything. It was a huge gas factory. We went there, we took a flight. We arrived at midnight in Copenhagen. Ten persons with ten cars were waiting for us. I thought that was bizarre. Ten cars for two persons. When we arrived there all the cars went inside the building to light up the building. Clever Danish people. I had to say yes or no. At midnight, these ten cars lighting the walls. So, I clapped my hands just to see how the acoustics were. Disastrous. You can imagine, with the form, about ten seconds of reverberation! Inside one of the cars was an acoustician. A very famous Danish acoustician. He said 'I'm retired, but this will be a challenge for me to change the acoustics and we should do it together. And he said, 'The problem of acoustics is very simple. You want good acoustics inside of where you play. Not good acoustics throughout the whole building where there are pictures or rats. No, just where we play. That is easy.' And we did it. We went to the railway station, the last cafe that was open and we made sketches and we transformed the building. This building became a permanent theatre until today. We were performing for one month, so we made a cheap construction in wood. Somebody gave the wood for free. I built the dressing room inside of the seating to save money. These are the seats and you can see the acoustic ceiling that we made. It is a very simple idea with fibreglass on top which would catch all the sounds that were too long. And the other sounds went just behind the seats where we have black curtains.
This is Carmen
inside this space and this is the Mahabharata
. I just painted the walls red. We could wash it off after. And you see these round windows; we made fire exits through them.
This is an abandoned space in Barcelona. That building was one of the first buildings in Europe to be built with wood glue. A beautiful structure. And nobody cared. Of course, I visited another building in Weimart, the first building in Europe to built with wood glue. We asked to have this building for Carmen
, and they said OK. We did Carmen
with absolutely nothing. We just took out somethings, we built seats like this and we played with the sand. I wanted a specific sand, the only strong requirement I had, I wanted to have sand from the bullfight (arena). They said it was not possible. 'No, no, I want to have this one. It is for Carmen
.' And then we had this extraordinary sand. It was very soft, glued together. It is like some kind of foam. An extraordinary sand.
And then we went back there, some years later, to play the Mahabharata
. We needed a bigger space. When we did the Mahabharata
in Madrid, the queen wanted to see the play. So, I had two persons come to me the day before and say 'Here, in the middle, we have to organise a place for the queen.' I said 'No. In France, you know what we did with the queen? We can't lose out ten seats right in the middle, we can do that in the sides' 'But the queen on the sides, we are in Madrid!' 'There is no other possibility.' They accepted that the queen would be seated like everybody else. We were ready to play, the day after, and the queen was not there. People said 'You have to wait, she is coming, she is a queen.' After forty five minutes, Peter Brook decided to play. The queen has to be polite and be on time. When she arrived, the whole room whistled and she left after the first part, at the intermission. When we played in Barcelona, she arrived fifteen minutes before the beginning of the show. Because of that, and because many people came from Madrid, the city of Barcelona thought that, maybe, the space was special. Not the play! So, they decided to transform the theatre and they gave the theatre to an architect. That is the Mahabharata
. I painted the whole thing red. But not completely, because the ladder disappeared by then.
This is what the architect did. And the space disappeared completely. It is full of technology and to date, I don't understand why they have transformed this space. The new director, who is a choreographer, asked me to go back, two years ago, and said that we have to retransform the space and bring back the original character, because that space had life (?).
This is a place in Zurich, wherethey repair boats. We wanted to play outside on this bridge which brings the boat up from the water. But one night, there was a police on a boat on the lake. We tried the acoustics and we heard this boat which was very far away. Then we understood that if we played outside we would be very disturbed by people who will probably go around in boats. We decided to go inside. Inside it was this kind of modern metallic structure. I decided to transform this place, bringing in some nice material. Wood is not very expensive in Switzerland. We built this Elizabethean space, in wood. Without cutting the wood; they could reuse the wood afterwards.
The seats of the benches were drawn in a way they could be used on the beach of the (?) afterwards. I didn't get any fees for that, but I drew the seats of the beach.
This is the place. There is this huge door in front of the building. I discovered, the morning after the play.... we were starting the play at 8 and finishing the play at 7 O'clock in the morning. The sun was right in the middle of the door. I suggested we open the door, that was an extraordinary end.
This is also in Zurich in a place which has the wrong proportions. This is something important when the proportions are probably more in relation with human beings than the form itself. Here the ceiling is too low and it creates something too wide and not high enough. For me there are two kinds of line in life which is the horizontal line, this is calm, and the vertical line. When you are on the beach, you sit pushed by the horizontal line. It will disturb, when you are vertical. In the forest, it is exactly the opposite. You express the beauty of the human being by the energy of the verticality.
In most places I visit, I look for the verticals and horizontals. Here it is too horizontal, then we have to reorganise verticality, or else we'll compress the actors. So, I changed the proportions. The seating is not as wide as the building, We brought this kind of a vertical beam, and proportions changed completely.
This is a cinema hall in Italy. Behind the screen there is a wooden wall. I took off the screen and the wooden wall. Behind this wall was a street. I used the house behind as the set. We made the seats between the stage and vthe balcony. Then, I used this house as the set. It was a cinema, the screen was here.
This is Ananas Theatre in New York, which was a boardroom, I transformed twice. This was a... stock exchange, in Vienna.
You know, the bourgeois need big columns to see how rich they are. You see how society functions! We made it a theatre and now it is a permanent place in Vienna.
This is a studio, the studio Grand Standing? in Madrid. That is where the queen escaped from... Before the war most Western movies were shot in Spain because the Americans had a lot of union problems in America. So, they made movies in the desert in Spain, southern Spain. They needed big studios to finish their movies. So they built this studio, it was the second biggest studio after the ? in Berlin. The studios were abandoned and a bank bought this to build a house. We talked to the bank and we asked to have the building just for a month. They accepted to stop the destruction. We made this door bigger.
We connected the two studios, on the left and we built the seating. We found the seats in an abandoned cinema hall. We played the Mahabharata
. From that moment the studios were saved. Berlusconi bought it and he sold it again to Spanish TV. THe studio was saved and this was very important for Peter Brook, because Peter Brook loves cinema much more than theatre. Don't say that!
This is outside. Outside, we can play everywhere of course. Here we found a quarry in Avignon. But, outside we have to be vigilant about the acoustics because otherwise actors can lose their voices very quickly. We visited very many quarries and we chose this one because the wind came from here - the wind is something very important, the wind came over the quarry, and created depressions. We could stop these depressions by building this arch. We built this wall. The wind creates a (?) ... acoustic.
This is during the night. This is a huge wall - this high, very important. Usually, we think when the ceiling of the building is low the space is small. It is exactly the opposite. When the ceiling is high it creates a very intimate space. When the ceiling or walls are very low, it creates a very large space. In that quarry; we visited the quarry, abandonned, it was very difficult for people to imagine how the show could be inside. He was talking with the costume designer, and then he said: 'what do you think if we have the first row here?' I said, 'Oh, the first row is ten metres ahead.' 'You sure?' I said, 'Peter, you are God. You do what you want.' He said, 'But, what can we do? Because, I think it, we will be too small.' I said 'Okay, we will transform the quarry, we will move the floor up, we'll put rocks underneath, and rake(?) and go through(?) and the sand and the first row and then you can come back.' He came back, and he said it was too small! I said,"Peter you saw (?)...' So, we tried to figure out... and that's why we work together, because it is another job to imagine in an unformed space, something finished. I said 'Peter, you have to trust me, otherwise we cannot go ahead. By the time it's finished it will be too late. So let me continue building everything.' And, that remember, is something you never say, I had never told him that.
When we began working together we were in Italy, and I transformed a park. I built the seats, for The Conference of the Birds
, I worked with a man who cut trees, I kept one, he had a huge machine and millimeter by millimeter he created a hill. Then he build a wall and (?)... and the place was absolutely superb. Peter Brook came and he said it was too big, could we push the seats a little? I said, "Okay, lets see how that is possible. We'll do that, maybe tonight.' I didn't touch anything. We had no time, we had no money. We'd have to strike everything, rebuild everything. We played there, like this, the day after. It was the premiere. Peter came behind me and said, "Jean Guy, you see, it is better like this.' So, from that time, I dont beleive that Peter Brook is god, but half. Because, when he came back it was finished and he said it was too big. It was too big, it was too small, it was too big.
It is during the day, when you see everything. Without the intimacy of the night, without the lights, without the power, without the people who finish the space. Without, everything, of course, the place looks too big. But... the theatre exists just to have a play. When there is no audience, not the show, not the night, not everything we have on the night, the theatre will not exist. The theatre is actor specific.
This is in Australia. Beautiful blue quarry. We had huge winds, between the sea and the desert. The trees on top of the quarry, could create a noise. One day the mother of one of the actors... Tapasudana(?), who was a dancer from Bali, invited his mother... one day, one of the actors, who is a griot from Africa, and the mother of Tapasudana(?), they went to a secret place to pray and make a ceremony against the wind. And, that was the only day we had no wind!
This is in Spain, a small theatre I transformed. I sought to transform it to a circus theatre, where we can have circus and theatre also, but there were huge political questions and one night, the theatre burnt.
These are some examples of the work I'm doing now, working with maximum of the young people. We are in Dublin in an abandoned cave, that was the first theatre built in the fifteenth century or sixteenth century built in Dublin. Now there is a church on top of that. But somebody opened this place, I helped him to open it. This is the set I did. We had no money, so I went to a factory working with glass and I took the trash of the glass for free and I made a set with glass which looks like a stork(?). Same form as a stork(?). So we made the set. Here there is the platform. This is one of the examples of th workI try to do. When we have no money, it is not the good reason to do nothing. When there is question, there is an answer. When we say 'It is impossible', this is not a good question. The question is 'how can we do it?'. And of course it must be beautiful, because this is one way to share.
This is in Lisbon, a small factory we transformed for a young director. So, we did the minimum. Unfortunately, it's painted black. He said, 'I have not painted the whole black, I've kept the top, with the original colour.' I said,'But why black?' We made a play which was about Brazil. I made a set, which was just seats. I can find abandoned seats everywhere. Lot of seats. At the end it looked like a "famella", the old little houses on top of Rio.
This is a slaughter house in Madrid. The city asked me to transform these three buildings for music, dance and theatre. I said that was not possible because they will disturb each other, especially the music. We decide to give the theatre to the city theatre. The first building was for the audience, the lobby; the second one for theatre and the third one for dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms and administration. I suggested that we create a connection between the buildings with scaffolding, because you can do it immediately, not wait for the next government, who would cancel the project! Scaffolding is very good because it is temporary for ever.
This is the lobby the lobby with a "cabaret" where they have a little stage for music or to do a little play. This is the first show. I made a set for Mahagonny
of Brecht. We set the music, we enclosed the musician, not to create a prison from which he cannot escape but because of the light. Now they have also bent(?) a little in line(?). When you keep buildings, like the "Bouffes du Nord", as they are then you can use the building. Here, we had the doors opened and then on the scaffolding behind, we had a huge screen where I printed a view of New York. Then we can extend the stage.
That is the (???) of the prostitutes. So, that is also something I like to do... is to fill this up... I don't remember the name of ... (?) ... to transform into a boat or to a place for justice and the actors can transform the set by themselves, nobody has to contribute(?), move the scenes. That will be our boat, here. And still here. And there is the justice.
And this is "Knocked Out"(???). Some years ago somebody, ...built, bought this building because he wanted to have some activities for free for the people who lived near the building. And, to have enough money for those activities, he needed to make money, so, he transformed the basement for the activities of the youth. And he transformed the top of the building to have circus, dance, theatre and rock concerts. They can have over two thousand standing people. So, this was a very famous place where The Beatles, Peter Brook and everbody played in the seventies. I think the transformation worked very well and it is a very active place today. We did not destroy the configuration inside, to keep the aesthetic inside. All the things we needed, to give(?) administration, restaurant and a little theatre, we built outside.
This is one of the last places I transformed, it is an abandoned ocean beach in Croatia. There is a festival in Croatia. We needed a spa. The story is witches. We had three extraordinary, very old, famous actresses. We wanted to do this play in a spa- we had not a lot of money- and this place was perfect to be transformed.
This is an image i like very much, from Louis Kahn, it's something gripping. San Diego, in California. I think that building opens to the Pacific ocean. And that's the opening in between the buildings. It is almost the proportion of the Parthenon in Athens.
This is something I'm working on now with "(?)". This is something I did for "OISTAT", this organisation- we have a meeting every four years in Prague. The students need a theatre and we had no money. So we built this theatre with cardboard boxes and fibreglass inside. So, we had a very heavy box. And we gave back the boxes to the shop, so we had the boxes for free. And the fibreglass also. We just had to rent the scaffolding. The students built the building by themselves. I'm trying to work with the governments today to develop some kind of structure, then we can build very cheap theatres, not necessarily with bricks and any theatre person can have a beautiful theatre of two hundred seats, everywhere.
Something interesting with this theatre company, is that all the students signed an agreement that they want a black curtain or a black box. But when they discovered this kind of Greek temple, with big stones, of cardboard, they didn't want to have black curtains. This is also a kind of set I'm doing when we have no money or very little money, which is to use paper. This was in Seoul, in Korea, for Antigone
. We had a little fan, and the paper moved just a little, just to create life. Antigone moves through the paper to express the desire for freedom. We had this square platform which is the prison. The King. We did it again with a different kind of sets, but also with paper.
This for Richard Tremblay, the choreographer, who is now in south india, working with a Kathakali company. His work is to try and mix the Kathakali movement and modern dance. He asked me to come to Montreal, where he was creating the show. When I arrived he said, 'There is disaster Jean Guy.' I asked, 'What?', 'There is no money!'. I said, 'That's normal'. No money means good ideas. So, I called different companies and I discovered that in Canada, it is a culture of paper because it is a forest eceonomy. And they could give me, for free, two hundred metres of paper. One morning the trees were cut(?) and we did this. The idea was any icy land, because the subject was the Himalayas. So, I put lights in between sheets of paper, then we have an idea of ice. With light it can look like rocks or ice.
And when we had to do Titus Andronicus
, which is a huge (?) play, in Dublin. it was the same director. We had very little money and I used "palettes" (apple boxes or crates). I painted "palettes", and the actors could transform the place by themselves. That's the King's daughter who had just been raped. With the "palettes" we created a kind of island, to show that they are lost together.
This is another idea. When a director says to the set designer, 'I need an entrance', the set designer thinks 'Door". Door means walls, walls mean (?); and then we begin to have something expensive and complicated. An entrance is not necessarily a door. Then how can we limit a space? I use, a lot of the time, some ideas, just vertical things, rope, bamboo- this is bamboo-, a piece of wood. Lot of the time, instead of building a wall, I just have little vertical things which create exactly the same effect. That stops the eye.
With these students, we had to play on a terrible floor, so at the beginning of the show, I made a ceremony and we covered the floor with paper.
This is a huge place in Spain. I created a play with a set, with very little(?) supporting, just four square frames which we could reorganise in different ways. We limited the space on the side with scaffolding. The scaffolding was part of the construction they were used for the lines of course but they also created the transparent limit on the sides. And behind there were just these three square things which can be together or lit in different colours.
I will finish with the beginning of the story of theatre, which is not one but multiple stories. One day with Peter Brook, I wanted to do a one week workshop and they asked me what the title of the work would be. I had to work- more than one week, ten days- with student architects and set designers. So I suggested this title: Simplicity is very sophisticated for theatre people and simplicity is too sophisticated for architects. And he said 'No! That is not possible.'