Europeana, A brief History of the Twentieth Century Patrik Ourednik

The narrative’s prequel could be the Millennium Bug, the so-called catastrophe which should have deleted the whole memory of the 20th century.

The text then randomly restores the chronology of the erased century as the various pieces of the puzzle recover from their amnesia in anarchic confusion.

Seven naïve childish voices discover, in an intricate chronology, the events of the century that deeply forged the European identity: technological progress and atrocities on the one hand, great ideologies and social changes on the other, are mixed up together.   

From a four-metre-high vantage point, the audience is thus leaning over this memory gap and experience the same kind of vertigo as the characters.

The audience is offered to experience this account of the 20th century as if they were archaeologists who, bended over an excavation pit, would be digging out the buried bits of our History.

Extract

“The americans who fell in Normandy in 1944 were tall men measuring 173 centimeters on average, and if they were laid head to foot they would measure 38 kilometers. The Germans were tall too, while the tallest of all were the senegalese fusiliers in the First World War who measured 176 centimeters, and so they were sent into battle on the front of lines in order to scare the Germans.”

Groupe Merci

Based in Toulouse since 1996, artistic director Solange Oswald and visual artist Joseph Fesel lead with Groupe Merci experiences criss-crossing drama, poetry and plastic arts: what they call their “Nocturnal Objects”. They like to explore non-theatrical grounds together and create journey-like performances to immerse the audience into.

What is at stake on Groupe Merci’s stage is a dialogue between the dramaturgy of texts by living authors and that of space. An upsurge. It is all about having the contemporary poem unexpectedly heard, under the light of unusual places: a camp in La Mastication des morts (text by Patrick Kermann, tour currently resumed), an installation-cum-form in À notre chère disparue, la Démocratie (created in 2011), a four-metre-high pit in Europeana

Credits

Europeana, A brief History of the Twentieth Century
Nocturnal Object no. 20

Text by:
Patrik OUREDNIK
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005.

Concept and design:
Solange OSWALD and Joël FESEL
Dramaturgy:
Marie-Laure HÉE
Artistic collaboration:
Anaïs DURIN
and Élise VAN HAESEBROECK
Lighting design, stage management:
Cyril MONTEIL
Music and sound effects:
Lionel GINOUX
Video:
Stéphane HENRY
Costumes:
Sylvie MARCUCCI
Set design:
Alexandre BÜGEL
English adaptation:
Rehearsal coach: Émeline JOUVE
Assistant director: Jude ANDERSON

Cast:
Catherine BEILIN
Georges CAMPAGNAC
Frédéric CUIF 
Gaetano GIUNTA
Marc RAVAYROL
Sacha SAILLE
Tanguy TRILLET

Production: Groupe Merci
Coproduction (France): Scène nationale d’Aubusson – Théâtre Jean Lurçat, Théâtre national de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, Pronomade(s) en Haute-Garonne, Centre national des arts de la rue, Équinoxe – Scène nationale de Châteauroux, Excentrique – Festival de la Région Centre, Festival d’Aurillac, Le Cylindre Théâtre.
Support: Conseil général de la Haute-Garonne, Plasticiens Volants, usine de l’Émancipation à Graulhet.
English adaptation production: Groupe Merci in coproduction with Le Cratère, scène nationale d’Alès and the support of Région Midi-Pyrénées
Photography: Luc Jennepin
Groupe Merci 2014, tous droits réservés. — Mentions légales

Premiere

Festival Cratère Surfaces,
Alès (South of France),
July 5th & 7th, 2013

A Touch of Press

Europeana is a weird and outstanding comeback to our already forgotten 20th century. 

We lean over this “pit-cum-memory-gap” from the rim of a “Wall of death” borrowed from the sideshow tradition; an image of Europe torn apart by conflicts and various excesses such as Nazism, communism, positivism or stupidity. […]

Solange Oswald and Joël Fesel with the help of seven experienced actors convey a Kafkaesque universe and immerse their audience into a turmoil of shadows and lights, abysses and upsurges, horrors and jesting madness.
Breathtaking!

Groupe Merci used a text by French-Czech writer and poet Patrik Ourednik to dig out, in a hysterical chaos, the aberrations, tall stories and illusions that fostered the last century. For instance, Barbie’s popular success is intermingled with the aimless slaughter of millions during the two World Wars. Disturbing and exhilarating!

Yves Marc in La Dépêche du Midi, 01/02/2009