© Mikha Wajnrych
© Mikha Wajnrych
Cie Mossoux-Bonté

Theatrum Mundi

It’s not the first time in the history of dramatic arts that the theatre, always partial to themes of what-seems-to-be and illusion, takes on the question of imposture.  Molière in his time gave Tartuffe the subheading ‘The Impostor’. Shakespeare, in turn, from Hamlet to Macbeth, along with the royal sagas of Richard and Henry, was obsessed with motifs of dethronements, usurpation, legitimate power and thus imposture. But, it was with words, within the very codified and very structured context of that period’s dramatic theatre. There could be reason to doubt that the very singular language that Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté have forged around the body, gesture and movement, at the ambiguous crossroad between dance and theatre, could suit the expression of such a moral and political subject. Yet the seemingly innocuous propositions already present in performances like Les Hallucinations de Lucas Cranach l’Ancien and Simonetta Vespucci, in which the question of self representation in art but also in society occupied in large part the aesthetic and dramaturgical project shouldn’t be forgotten.


Some scenes in this new opus – ‘Camp de base en costumes’ (Base camp in costume) or ‘Corrections (with hat)' – as well as period costumes, doublets, corseted dresses, extravagant helmet like hairstyles, mitres, tiaras or hennins – make reference to the Renaissance with malice and a humorous distance.
The piece begins in shadowy darkness.  Five actors-dancers, two men and three women come together around a square of light.  They emerge from along the lateral entrances to the auditorium. As if extracted from us, they break away from our community of spectators and from the general public. They are nude, like glow worms, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden or medieval allegories in which innocence and truth are reborn. Their gait is contemporary, like that of nudists arriving around the pool of a village or modern-day vacation spot. In staggered rows, they reconfigure all possible combinations on the face of an imaginary dice.
And then, in the next tableau, a showroom, a ‘shooting’ – a marvellously polysemic word! – punctuated by the sound and clicking flashes of light. The siren’s strained cry announces what may well be a bombardment or execution. The shots heard quickly get mixed up with the photographer’s shots and prints, like the genius Kantor’s Wielopole, Wielopole with its improbable ready-made camera/machine gun. By fixing or freezing the moment of live gesture are we not in effect killing the movement? Do not the zoom or telephoto lens, through their cylindrical and phallic aggressiveness, evoke the barrel of a gun or firearm? Or the taking of safari photographs? And finally, didn’t the founders and publicists of the Japanese brand Canon, know that by borrowing a name from Buddhist mythology, they would awaken in us, Europeans and French speakers, whole other associative ideas?
So here we are, in the glamor and glossy mortiferous pages of magazines, tabloid front pages, books of photography and fashion, of tilted hips, palms that open to offer, of hands folded behind one’s head, arms that wrap luxuriously around one’s neck, a finger pointed toward the camera, arms crossed, fingers open and joints crossed….


Linguistics and psychoanalysis already warned us: words maintain an equivocal and ambivalent relation with their origins, including apparent antonyms. In this case l’imposture is also understood in the posture, even the pose and the snapshot thereof, of positions both mannered and mannerist.
Wax mannequins in windows or mechanical puppets automated on the catwalk, fashion victims and other top models first appear as some generic Mr and Mrs on the cover of a popular clothing catalogue. The men wear grey suits and the women executive attire of the same colour before donning Renaissance garments. Leading us through time, through the near parody of role-play, to the protocol of our ancestors, as in Madame de Lafayette’s book, articulated and respectful of the label, which announced for the sad and paltry consumerist posterity, of the Galeries of the same name!
Passing through several sequences, each more pathetic and clownish than the one before, we arrive at the most kitsch karaoke, the most nostalgic, seductive and tacky that exists. I wish to speak of the saccharin sweet, irresistible cult-classic Buena sera Signorina of Luis Prima, in which the image of a crooner and the legend of canzonetta meet in the most ridiculously artificial posture there is, that of music halls and variety shows.


It all degenerates into an infernal sarabande, in which the gavottes and minuets of time past and the ‘spinning’ Bob Wilson borrowed from whirling dervishes, all deteriorate into a frenzy of a techno-parade samba, a witches’ Sabbath, a surprisingly masterful biomechanical trance. The music is more and more jerky, syncopated, segmented, sequenced, stroboscopic, punctuated by concrete eruptions and sounds from the real world.  The fragmentation accelerates, crescendo, pretissimo, because the imposture cannot endure or sustain itself, cannot remain eternal.  The masks must fall. Shakespeare reminds us of this through the voice of Jacques the melancholic lord, the cynical philosopher and clown in As you like it: ‘All the world’s a stage. / And all the men and women merely players.’ Then through Macbeth: ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.’


Yannic Mancel • 2014