Academic journal article About Performance

Situation Vacant: Lines of Flight and the Schizo-Potential for Revolution

Academic journal article About Performance

Situation Vacant: Lines of Flight and the Schizo-Potential for Revolution

Article excerpt

This paper is a report on the project to translate, workshop and produce La Demande d Emploi by Michel Vinaver,1 undertaken jointly by the Centre for Performance Studies and the Sydney based performing company, Public Works.2 The translation/workshop took place at the University of Sydney and the production of Situation Vacant was mounted at Belvoir St. Downstairs in July 1993.

In the 1992 text, Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture, the French performance theorist Patrice Pavis advances what he calls an 'hourglass' model of translation to account for the intercultural transposition of theatre works from one cultural context to another.3 His polemic is to propose that cutting edge contemporary theatre practices are those which deal with intercultural exchange.4 .And his model of the hourglass filtering of source culture into target culture, mediated by no less than eleven separate filters, is an attempt to theorise this transfer. The eleven filters are grouped into three: firstly, the processes by which the source culture is modelled into a theatre text; secondly, the processes of theatrical production, anticipating reception in the target culture; and thirdly, the processes of reception by the audiences of the target culture.

The mise en scène then, for Pavis, is the laboratory of this intercultural mix. Rather than simply being a material process, an empirical object, that which is made and therefore seen, the mise en scène for him is 'the bringing together or confrontation, in a given space and time, of different signifying systems, for an audience.'5 In other words it is the interaction of the processes of production and reception, within the performance event. This interaction then is a theoretical construct, an object of knowledge, it bears the traces of all its constituent processes, and thus can be discerned only by reflection on, and analysis of, all the filters of the hourglass transfer.

For the purposes of this paper I would like to focus only on the middle group of filters (numbers three to seven) concerning the processes of theatre production; those of the adapter's perspective, the work of adaptation, the preparatory work by actors, the choice of theatrical form, and the theatrical representation/performance of culture.6 For it is largely these processes that Public Works found itself engaged upon in transposing (translating) the text La Demande d'Emploi into the performance event, Situation Vacant. In particular I will concentrate on the processes of spatialising the work, and of embodying the characters, partly because, as Pavis says, 'translation reaches the audience by way of the actors bodies,'7 and partly because, as he also says, 'access to this exceptional laboratory remains difficult,' for 'the artists do not like to talk much about their creations.'8

Situation Vacant

The text, Situation Vacant, is a translation into English of the playtext La Demande d'Emploi by the French writer Michel Vinaver. Written in 1971, La Demande d'Emploi has received productions in France9 and in England (in another translation)10 but this was its first rendition into an Australian performance context. Vinaver's work, while widely read and produced in France,11 is relatively unknown in the English speaking world and aside from a public rehearsed reading by Public Works of another of his playtexts, Portrait of a Woman12 in Sydney in 1992, this project is believed to be the first production of a Vinaver play in Australia.

The playtext was suggested to Public Works13 as being not only appropriate for our times-it deals with the politics of unemployment and desire in a montage-like structure of thirty overlapping tableaux or scenes each composed of multiple lines of intertwining conversations-but also ideally suited to the company and its aesthetic. That is, we are a performer-based ensemble which works collectively inviting a multiplicity of viewpoints in the working process. Tackling difficult and complex texts in ways inspired by contemporary performance theory and practice, some of the company's lines of investigation are to 'problématisé' the character/ performer relationship, to displace text in relation to movement and to mount works which in performance emphasise montage, simultaneity and a shifting viewpoint. …

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