Some Words on Elles Vivent at Dublin Theatre Festival
By Dearbhla McCormick
The play ‘Elles Vivent’ (EV) is a remarkably funny and frank production that examines our modern norms by heightening them to their inevitable ridiculous conclusion.
For some background information EV was originally conceived by Antoine Defoort and then collaborated on by Lorette Moreau. It was performed by the aforementioned Antoine Defoort as well as, Sofia Teillet, Alexandre Le Nours and Arnaud Boulogne, with The Spirit of the Forest as logomorphic adviser and engineering of the Fliflifli Reform by Kevin Matagne. Oh, and if list wasn’t setting off any senses, it’s entirely in French.
The story goes as such; in the future, an indeterminate amount of time (+2 years) away, two friends, Michel and Taylor, meet in a forest to discuss their lives over the past years. Michel has spent two years in a deep mindfulness isolation and so has plenty of questions regarding the current state of the world to ask his good friend.
One of the most pressing themes present within EV is the relationships that we have with our ideas, modalities and societal norms. From the absurdity of our modern customs to the almost autonomous life and strength we give to ideas simply by thinking of them. EV treats ideas and concepts as living things that are hard to kill and will naturally defend themselves. Such as, the concept of fear. EV describes the idea of fear as something you push away behind a fridge or at the back of a cupboard, but, in the effort you take to try and forget this fear, to kill it, this idea, it grows in strength, out of sight but looming, breathing down your neck. In answer to this EV suggest (by means of musical prose no less) that by acknowledging all of our ideas equally, ‘by giving them a seat at the table’, and acknowledging the fact that we ‘Are super scared’, it removes the threat they pose, giving them nothing but a passive influence on our lives.
But let’s hang on that musical prose part for a sec’ because it gives me an excellent segue into one of the best parts of this play, that being; the funny. Hands down EV contains a fantastic sense of comedy throughout, often pairing it with serious thoughts and concepts to create a paradoxical situation in which you both believe completely in what they are proposing while simultaneously laughing your head off at it, or as they more deftly describe it, ‘Holding two opposing truths at once’. Such as ‘The Stick Prayer’, a mindfulness activity proposed in universe that despite lucridity of it, works. And it is this mixture of paradox and comedy that I believe keeps audience members open to conversation and discussion of these ideas.
But it’s not just the story that is cause to this brilliant piece of art. Designed by Marie Szersnovicz, EV’s constant backdrop of a beautiful forest scape gives the story an almost timeless sense despite being set in the future. The projecting screen set in the middle of the stage ensures that your eyes are neither carried too far away from the characters nor the subtitles, as well as providing story relevance by setting the scenes in the memories.
The crowning jewel though, what I believe shows that true care and attention has been put into this play is the feature of the nmemoprojector. The simple prop slash plot device in question allows the wearer to view any memory that they may recall. Not only does this provide a quick way to jump between multiple points in the past two years, but what I love is the clarity of the memory has an effect on the viewing. Backgrounds may be blurred or simply just a colour gradient, furniture is reduced to simply geometric shapes, at one point a character’s recollection fades to just the emotion that they felt at this time, so nothing is projected, but the accompanying music swells and fills the theatre, letting the feels wash over you in one of the only languages where fluency is unrequired.
When all is said Elles Vivent is a brilliant think piece that dissects our norms and tackles interesting issues within the self while also managing to be an absolutely hilarious in an ingenious performance.
Dearbhla McCormick is a member of Monaghan Youth Theatre and is a Young Critic for 2022.