[THEATRE: Interview] L’Effet De Serge
What can you achieve in one minute on stage? This is the question theatre-makers Phillippe Quesne and Gaëtan Vourc’h, from the experimental Viviarium Studio in Paris, asked themselves when devising L’Effet de Serge (‘The Serge Effect’), about a man who puts on short lo-fi living-room shows for his friends and neighbours. A gentle comedy about the importance of art and the power of the imagination in everyday life, L’Effet de Serge is Vivarium Studio’s most widely travelled theatre work to date, having performed over 150 times in at least 20 countries.
On the phone from Paris, Vourc’h, who co-wrote the show and also plays Serge, tells me he and Quesne started with the idea that just one minute on stage can provide an endless variety of theatrical effects.
“The first rehearsal was very basic. I would come on stage and stay for one minute and then leave. And then I would do that with the music. Then I would come on stage and read a book for one minute and leave. Lots of different things…”
“I was first actually rehearsing alone, doing my one minute show for an empty chair. But, it was too sad – very sad, a bit crazy. So a few days before the premiere we decided to invite friends to come and join me.” This is how Serge’s friends became integral to the performance; in each city they tour to, Vivarium employs local actors to play the character’s friends. “We just rehearse it with them a bit to give them the idea of what they’re going to do, when they have to come on stage and where they have to be on stage – it’s quite precise,” says Vourc’h.
Citing French director Jacques Tati (the creator of the ‘Monsieur Hulot’ films) as a major influence, Vourc’h notes the importance of the set in L’Effet de Serge. “At the beginning of the play there is a prologue where I’m wearing an astronaut suit… The set is in the dark and I describe it in my astronaut suit [using] a small light. There is a carpet, there is a ping pong table, a TV. I talk about his character through the set, what kinds of objects he has.”
Vourc’h shies away from discussing Serge as a character outside the show, preferring the audience to use their own imaginations – but he says, “I think they will see this guy who has his small group of friends who have agreed to believe in something, to believe in this guy who is doing these one-minute shows. The audience becomes a community that are going to believe in something together.”
Where: Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre
When: January 8-11