Operation Caravaggio project


operation Caravaggio project

In line with our working method, which allows time for research, whether in training sessions or in the preliminary stages of performances, the company wanted to carry out a long-term research project, from 2019 to 2021, on the transfer of cinematographic effects to the theatre, and their implications for the actor's tools, in relation to the spectator. The title of this project, "Operation Caravaggio", refers to a term used by Jacques Rivette, whose methods of adaptation and direction of the actor we have used to create new actor/actor, actor/reader and actor/dramaturg tools. This research project, supported by the DGCA, was carried out in collaboration with the Thalim research laboratory - in particular the "Vocabulaire de l'identification dans les arts du spectacle" team, the University of Besançon, the MC93 le studio-théâtre de Vitry and the ESAD. 

The project has focused on working on cinematographic effects from the perspective of the spectator and the actor, based on the theoretical corpus of Brecht and Jacques Rivette (particularly on the notions of distancing and the unusual). We feel that this cinematic impression is very close to the fantastic suspense experienced by the reader on a literary level, as it involves a combination or juxtaposition of attractions, the interplay of distinct codes (theatre/cinema; drama/narrative; reality/supernatural). This explains the choice of non-theatrical materials initially where the "impression of cinema" is present, and which belong to the genre of the fantastic, in particular several films (Vif-argent (Burning Ghost) by Stéphane Batut, Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating) by Jacques Rivette), a literary experience based on cinema (Agnès et ses sourires by Stéphane Bouquet) and a novel (L'avancée de la nuit, by Jakuta Alikavazovic).

Operation Caravaggio project  © Mahaut Leconte

Going through the viewer's point of view seemed fundamental to us because it is through this that we can define the "cinema effects" often referred to as cinematographic impressions. This led to several theoretical work sessions (with M2 students at the University of Besançon, with students at the ESAD Paris) in conjunction with Mildred Galland-Skymkowiak, who directs the "Vocabulary of Identification", Marie Martin and Alain-Patrick Ollivier, to define more precisely the terms identification/hypnosis/projection/empathy/Einfühlung. At the same time, we have opened several practical workshops: 

- working on the same scene according to the desired effect on the spectator (who often projects something else!) (session in Besançon and at ESAD Paris with the students) 

- applying Jacques Rivette's method for performers around improvisation and secrecy with theatre actors (session at the MC 93 with professional actresses) 

- embodying a spectator's view through the stage (session at ESAD Paris with the students) 

- working on the phantomization of the actor by an exact reproduction of all the movements and temporalities of a film extract, the three actors on the stage being asked to play the five actors in the film and thus to superimpose two space-time periods (session at the Studio-Théâtre de Vitry with the professional actors) 

- constructing a methodology of theatrical adaptation focused on the actor by transposing that which Rivette uses to create his cinema from the synthesis of several novels. 

A final, longer and more accomplished stage of work enabled us to formalise a method, bringing together the ESAD class, the three professional actors, as well as Anne Monfort and Laure Bachelier-Mazon, who had been leading the project together from the start. We, therefore, developed three approaches:

1- The actor/reader: actors use the memory of their reading experience to produce motifs that will be included in the score.

2- The actor/dramatist: approaching the matter through memory and reading impressions enables the integration of unconscious work that operates through transfers, synthesis and projections. Each actor articulates their emotional journey through the work with the common score woven from superimpositions and subterranean shifts. During this gradual development, the score turns into a material that fuels the play. 

3- The actor/editor: the superimposition work requires extremely clear transitions from one figure to another, from one temporality and one space to another: the actor is the editor. 

From a teaching perspective, the student actors needed to participate in the entire process, accompanied by the entire team (actors, director, dramaturge) to coordinate these three areas of work upstream and on the fringes of the stage. It is not a matter of turning the actor into a director or a playwright or of moving a cinematic performance to the stage, but of developing a style in which the actor's theoretical knowledge of audience reception, his or her experience of texts before the stage, his or her stage writing and his or her ability to edit are all tools in themselves.

 The entire project is documented in the Cahiers du studio de Vitry and on the Hypotheses website

Operation Caravaggio project © Mahaut Leconte

3rd and 4th November 2021 | project report at the CND in Pantin
12th and 13th June 2021: workshop with amateurs at the Studio-Théâtre de Vitry based on the methodology of Operation Caravaggio
30th November 2020 to 15th January 2021 | session at ESAD with student actors and professional actors
9th to 15th November 2020 | research session with professional actors at the Studio-Théâtre de Vitry
25th February - 18th March 2020 | research session with ESAD students
6th to 10th January 2020 | experimentation session with two professional actresses at the MC93 Bobigny
9th to 13th December 2019 | exploration session with the M2 performing arts of the University of Besançon