director and adaptation Frank Castorf
texts Jean Racine, Antonin Artaud and additionnal citations from Pascal and Dostoevskij
scenographer Aleksandar Denic
costume designer Adriana Braga Peretzki
video Andreas Deinert
music William Minke
light designer Lothar Baumgarte
director’s assistant Hanna Lasserre
Camille Logoz (internship)
Camille Roduit (internship)
scenographer’s assistant Maude Bovey (internship)
dresser’s assistant Sabrina Bosshard
with Jeanna Balibar, Jean-Damien Barbin, Adama Diop, Mounir Margoum, Claire Sermonne, Andreas Deinert (live camera)
stage manager Martine Staerk
stage Stéphane Devantéry
light Jean-Baptiste Boutte
sound Janyves Coïc
perchman Glenn Zao
video Nicolas Gerlier / Victor Hunziker (alternating) dresser Clara Ognibene / Camille Aït Allouache (alternating)
production Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, MC93 – Maison de la Culture de Seine St-Denis
coproduction ExtraPôle Région SUD* and le Grand Théâtre de Provence with the support of Friche Belle de Mai – Festival d’Automne à Paris – Théâtre National de Strasbourg – Maillon, Théâtre de Strasbourg, scène européenne – TANDEM Scène nationale, Douai – Bonlieu, Scène nationale Annecy -TNA / Teatro Nacional Argentino, Teatro Cervantes – Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione
*Production platform supported by the Région SUD Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur bringing together the Festival d’Avignon, the Festival de Marseille, the Théâtre National de Nice, the Théâtre National de la Criée, Les Théâtres, Anthéa, La Scène Nationale Liberté-Châteauvallon and the Friche la Belle de Mai
This show is supported by the PEPS project as part of the European Interreg France-Switzerland 2014-2020 cross-border cooperation programme.
with the support of Pro Helvetia – Swiss Foundation for the culture
in French with Italian and English surtitles
Recommended for an adult audience. Please, note that cigarettes will be smoked during the show
Now all is at an end; my perfidy, My unjust doubts, my fatal
jealousy, Have brought me to this pass: I realise ‘Twas my crime
that caused Bajazet’s demise. Cruel destiny, are you so
unforgiving That I, condemned, alas! to go on living, Must bear, to
crown my grief, the endless shame That for my lover’s death I am
to blame? Yes, my dear prince, your death is due to me, Not
Roxane’s rage nor Amurat’s decree. Ah! for what purpose did I
love you so?
Jean Racine, Bajazet, 1672
Life consists of burning up questions.
I cannot conceive of work that is detached from life. […]
We must get rid of the Mind, just as we must get rid of literature.
I say that the Mind and life communicate on all levels.
I would like to write a Book which would drive men mad, which would be like an open door leading them where they would never have consented to go, in short, a door that opens onto reality.
Antonin Artaud, The Umbilicus of Limbo, 1925
Frank Castorf, who for many years was the director of the renowned Volksbühne in Berlin, has now set his sights on producing Bajazet by Racine, with a team of French performers including Jeanne Balibar. Castorf has been a provocative figure in German theatre for over forty years, famous for his directing of actors at the intersecting point between grotesque and fierce intensity, his early use of video that explored its truly dramatic energy, and his dizzying adaptations of novels – especially by Dostoyevsky, with whom he shares a taste for keen social analysis, lucid and raw, borne by the energy of the desperate. His theatre is utterly committed to freely acting and thinking; it doesn’t avoid contradiction, but it totally rejects any compromise in principles.
For the first time, and in French, he is adapting a work by Racine, a dramatist that few no Francophone artists have previously attempted. In Racine, Castorf recognises the foundation of his own theatre – the conviction that purity does not exist and that the tragedy of existence is born from the collusion between private passion and power, and between desire and contingent propositions. But they also share a belief in the power of the spoken word, theatre’s very anchor, which Racine’s heroes and heroines use to break apart the social settings that prevent them from fulfilling their desires – sexual desire and a desire for freedom – a demanding and radical spoken word, fatal if needs be. Castorf relates Racine to Artaud, another poet of vital immoderation, who uses words to extricate himself from what his birth, his body and his environment have imposed on him, in order to be reborn as himself. So from within the confines of the Sultan of Constantinople’s seraglio in Bajazet, Castorf brings together two major French poets and awakens our demons.
At 67 years of age, Frank Castorf is one of the major figures in German theatre (…). Alongside Christoph Marthaler, Christoph Schlingensief or René Pollesch, his intense, deconstructionist, post-dramatic productions have firmly made their mark. He was one of the first to have brilliantly brought together theatre and video.
Brigitte Salino, le Monde, 10.09.16
On an artistic front, the Volksbühne led by Frank Castorf was the space for a group of artists to express themselves, where each and everyone, in their own way and no matter their generation, could uncompromisingly tackle concrete aspects of the aesthetic, economic and political changes of the time.
Christoph Marthaler, Andreas Kriegenburg, Christoph Schlingensief, Johann Kresnik and Meg Stuart were described by their boss as being a league of ‘strong and radical personalities that packed a punch’. At a time when theatres are often no more than a final resting place for their director’s illusions, Frank Castorf continues to be an exception, utterly adored or determinedly snubbed.
Stéphane Malfettes, Frank Castorf: le théâtre de l’avenir, Artpress, n°330, 2007
Frank Castorf was born in East Berlin in 1951. From 1971 to 1976, he studied theatre studies at the University of Humboldt. After completing his doctorate on Eugène Ionesco, he became a playwright and later a director. He founded his own theatre company in Anklam in 1981, producing texts from Heiner Müller, Antonin Artaud, William Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht that attracted the censor’s attention. His 1984 production of Drums in the Night by Bertolt Brecht was cancelled under pressure from the Communist Party of the German Democratic Republic, and his interpretation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House resulted in the termination of his contract. He went on to work for the Theater Chemnitz, the Neue Theater in Halle, the Volksbühne and the Deutsches Theater in Berlin.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, his plays have been produced across Germany. His productions are invited to festivals and international theatres, and his work has been awarded prestigious prizes (Mannheim Schiller Prize, Nestroy Theater Prize, Fritz Kortner Prize). In addition, he has also created film adaptations of two theatre productions: The Possessed (or Demons) and The Idiot, based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works. From 1992 to 2017, he was intendant at the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxembourg-Platz in Berlin-Mitte and was elected as a member of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin in 1994. At Avignon he presented Cocaine in 2004, based on Pitigrilli’s work, North by Louis-Ferdinand Céline in 2007, and Die Kabale der Scheinheiligen Das Leben des Herrn by Molière in 2017.
Castorf takes on the greatest authors (Euripides, Jean-Paul Sartre, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Molière, Honoré de Balzac, Goethe) to produce shows with a subversive nature that gave rise to strong reactions from both audiences and critics. His continually renewed, formal inventiveness that drove him early on to explore and master the use of video on stage, his freedom of tone and mind, the radicalness with which he refutes mythification and mystification, the way in which he directs actors based on energy and invention, and his knowledge of the repertoire and history of theatre, with which his works are often in dialogue, contrasted against the concrete analysis of contemporary social situations, have made him a landmark for generations of artists and spectators for over 20 years.