Legendary theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine worked in residence at The North Wall from 14 – 25 September 2015. Along with five members of her company, Théâtre du Soleil, she brought her unique “travelling school” – the École Nomade – to the theatre.
“Ariane Mnouchkine is one of the giants of theatre – she is the only female director to have ever won the international Ibsen award, and has received honours from many countries for her achievements. Her creative output over the last fifty years has been extraordinary and enormously influential. The fact that she is sharing her working method with students of theatre, including some of the students studying drama at St Edwards, here in Oxford at The North Wall is a marvellous thing.” said Lucy Maycock, artistic director of the North Wall.
The company have taken the École Nomade all over the world, from Kabul to Chile, then Sweden and now Oxford, where eighty people from across the country will be participating following national auditions. The fortnight will be based on the Théâtre du Soleil’s own working method of workshopping with hundreds of actors before they begin the creation of a new piece of work. In the company’s own words: “The sessions of the École Nomade will not simply be drama classes; they will, rather, constitute moments of practical reflection, in which we seek to set out, explain, and clarify our methods, and to share our collective way of working. And the point of all this? Because this is how we, at the Théâtre du Soleil, explore, try, fail, and begin again. In short, this is how we work.”
Based in France, Théâtre du Soleil rarely performs in the UK, which makes this visit to Oxford extremely special. The company creates popular yet radical, high-quality theatre that invents new ways to combine Asian and Western styles. One of the last great collective companies in Europe, they have for more than 50 years continued to question theatre’s capacity to represent its own times.
Lucy first saw the work of Théâtre du Soleil in 1998 at their artistic home, La Cartoucherie on the outskirts of Paris. “The humanity, vision and intelligence of the work had a huge impact on me, and the fact that Mnouchkine herself was there tearing tickets at the door taught me that great theatre has to be collaborative and democratic. Watching Ariane work over the last few days, we’ve seen that her generosity of spirit informs all her work. More importantly, she reminds us that without discipline, creative vision cannot flourish – which is perhaps one of the greatest lessons from this very special two weeks.”