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Portrait: Camille Trouvé presents a famous "literary swindler" in R.A.G.E.

©Vincent Muteau

In November 2015, R.A.G.E., the 7th show of the Compagnie Les Anges au plafond, premiered at Equinoxe in Châteauroux, France. For this piece, the second of a diptych focused on the theme of censorship, it is Camille Trouvé’s turn to stage Brice Berthoud in a well-known 20th-century character. The story that unfolds lays at the crossroads of swindling and authenticity. After being performed on various national stages, R.A.G.E. will be hosted by the Chicago International Puppet Festival in the United States, with the support of a grant from FACE Contemporary Theater program. 

Les Anges au Plafond: From Mythic Narratives to Contemporary Characters

On the website of Les Anges au plafond, their work is described as focused "on the precise place where the intimate and the political intersect." But how and why does this team of puppeteers want to approach this subject in the 21st century?

 With their performances, Antigone de papier (2007) and Au Fil d’Œdipe (2009), both part of a series called "La Tragédie des Anges ", the artists question the ancient myths of Antigone and Oedipus, and their relationship to the issue of freedom of expression. This artistic creation inspired Camille Trouvé and Brice Berthoud to reflect on these themes through contemporary characters. The "Cycle de la Censure" consists of Les Mains de Camille (2012) and R.A.G.E. (2015) which respectively feature Camille Claudel and a well-known 20th-century novelist whose initials form the title of the show (it's up to you to find out who it is!). Through these two characters, the puppeteers narrate Camille Claudel's fight against the bourgeois censorship in the 19th century and discuss the impact of 20th-century self-censorship with R.A.G.E. With these tragic and poetic narratives, Camille Trouvé and Brice Berthoud also reveal an important aspect in today's society: the constant threat hanging over our freedom of expression. While the censorship of the 20th century may be more discreet than in the past, it is non the less a strong presence in our modern society. 

R.A.G.E.: A Complex Character in search of Authenticity  

R.A.G.E is the story of a famous novelist, born in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the First World War, who took refuge in France and became the only person to win the Prix Goncourt twice, under two different names. It is also the story of a mother who wanted her son to fulfill an extraordinary destiny as a writer, diplomat, and hero. In R.A.G.E, we see how maternal love shapes the main character, and watch as he learns how to multiply his identity and to travel between fiction and reality. 

R.A.G.E. describes how this historical character avoided censorship by lying. In the story, he invents and reincarnates himself, discovering the true power of pseudonyms and creating new masterpieces with the hand of his alter ego. The main character's taste for lies, manipulation, and subterfuge is delicately staged by Camille Trouvé, who reveals the baffling paradox of lying in quest of truth.

"I was tired of being just myself. (...) To begin again, to relive, to be another was the great temptation of my existence (...). The truth is that I was very deeply affected by man's oldest temptation: that of multiplicity (...) I have always been another. ... "  said the novelist staged in R.A.G.E. (1981)

This paradox, and the ambiguity between fiction and reality--between the visible and the invisible-- are presented by director Camille Trouvé as representative of the character's desire to free himself from the stigma that limits his creativity. The liberating alter-ego that the writer adopts becomes his new " self " and, in the multiplicity of identities, he loses himself in his own game. 

Scenography and Staging: How far does the Illusion go? 

Six performers (Brice Berthoud, Jonas Coutancier, Yvan Bernardet, Xavier Drouault, Piero Pépin, and Noëmi Waysfed) bring fifteen paper puppets to life. While foley artist Xavier Drouault awakens our imaginations, trumpeter Piero Pépin carries the emotions of the play, and singer Héléna Maniakis recreates the writer's universe, the puppeteers offer the audience a magical and dramatic experience. Manipulation and illusion are the very essences of the show: the protagonist toys with lying and deception while Camille Trouvé and Brice Berthoud try to manipulate our gaze through their scenography.

"On this show, we wanted a multitude of possible points of view.  (...) We said to ourselves: "The basis will be two audiences who are one, two characters who are also one, and we're going to play with these points of view on the story". Depending on where you're placed in the room or even on the stage, you won't see the same show. Sometimes we hear one part of the audience laughing and not the other, and that's very much the soul of R.A.G.E.: can we be wary of absolute truths? "Camille Trouvé in an interview with Laura Lalande in 2015.

The relationship between the stage and the auditorium, the play of the lights, the songs in different languages, the texture of the texts, and the rich diversity of arts used in the performance create a captivating atmosphere that brings us into the midst of an intimate reflection and immerses us into the life of the greatest literary swindler of the 20th century.

© Vincent Muteau

About Camille Trouvé 

After training in puppetry in the Glasgow national school, Camille returned to France, where she met theatre directors such as Wajdi Mouawad, François Cervantès, Catherine Germain, and Laurent Fréchuret. She also trained at the International Institute of Puppetry in Charleville-Mézières with the English company Green Ginger. As a builder of unusual articulated objects as well as a performing puppeteer and actress, Camille Trouvé has continued her creative explorations. Over the course of her various productions, she has created an original, offbeat visual world, often realized in collaboration with colleagues like Italian puppeteer, and master of lights and shadows Fabrizio Montechi. Additionally, she has performed as a puppeteer in Le Cri Quotidien, Une Antigone de papier, Les Mains de Camille and Du Rêve que fut ma vie and directed Les Nuits polaires, Au Fil d’Œdipe, R.A.G.E. and White Dog.

About Les Anges au plafond

Les Anges au Plafond is a meeting of minds, started in 2000 by the actors and puppeteers, Camille Trouvé and Brice Berthoud. They have developed their artistic language around three main axes: epic sweep, the space in question, and revealed versus concealed manipulation. Their shows explore the complex relationship between puppeteer and puppet. Seeking to tell life stories that are both intimate and spectacular, Camille Trouvé and Brice Berthoud transport us into the worlds of outstanding protagonists. In doing so, they focus on the precise place where the intimate and the political intersect. As an example, their latest creation called Le Nécessaire Déséquilibre des Choses explores the fragility, vulnerability and emotional chaos of the human being while questioning the origin of the world. This time, les Anges au Plafond stands out step by step from mythological figures to take human form and debate the concept of desire and the meaning of life. Based on the text by Roland Barthes Fragments d'un discours amoureux (1977), this piece full of poetry and philosophy will premiere on November 3, 2020 at the Maison de la Culture in Bourges. For more information, click here.