Novices and little travel bags

The Raoul Collectif

Our work develops by layers, layers of meaning and trajectories that answer each other back and forth. We rely a lot on intuition, and we follow pathways. We made Le Signal du Promeneur (‘The Walker’s Signal’), then we left for Mexico to meet this extraordinary character, pterodactyl hunter that we dealt in the first show. This led us to meet the Huichol Indians, and their alternative worldview. And all these adventures that we experienced before the second show, Rumeur et petits jours (‘Noise and dawns’), continue to fuel our reflections for the third.

There’s a porousness here; we have been twice to Benin. The first time was to take part in a festival of Grios (African storytellers). The storytellers are the bearers of a collective history that creates links between communities and generations. In this show we also question this position of storyteller which echos our way of making theatre.

The second time, we had started thinking about music and the origins of jazz. We went there to meet a family of Beninese musicians that the jazz trumpeter Laurent Blondiau had put us in contact with. For a week, we worked with them for about five hours a day and obviously we experienced a musical shock. There was a voodoo community there, virtuoso practitioners of music and rhythms that are completely foreign to us. It’s not written, so how do we get in, how do we get out? We were like novices with our little travel bags but sensing that something extraordinary was happening.

On the fictional side, there’s this idea of ​​a group of musicians resembling us that comes together to rehearse and to produce something together.

In any case maybe a ceremony is going to take place which marks the end of something. An end which is also the beginning of something else. Here we are, in this fragile in-between moment, the moment just before the start of a ceremony which also evokes the moment of an interregnum. At the centre of the rehearsal is the jazz standard A Night in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie but coupled with rhythms from Benin.

The mixture of these two things is also historic. The African peoples that were enslaved and taken to America took with them their own musical culture, remembrances of sounds and of rhythms. Thus we can trace the origins of jazz to traditional music from West Africa, and especially to what was called the Kingdom of Dahomey (more or less Benin today) and which was the main source for slave trade.


— Interview by Cécile Michel on February 11, 2020