The first question has to be about the duration of the show, which makes it quite an event. What was the meaning of such a long performance at that time?
Herentals, 14 July 1982 – The actors and dancers are tired. Their bodies need food. The rehearsal days are long.
Herentals, 17 July 1982 – The basic principle of theatre is repetition. Every day: try, repeat, reiterate. The driving force behind C’est du théâtre comme c’était à espérer et à prévoir is repetition.
Herentals, 19 July 1982 – There is an abundance of inspiration and material. The performance will last 24 hours. One day and one night. Be it eating, defecating, drinking, urinating or bleeding, I will use all of these actions performed by the actors and dancers, and I will stage them. The performance will contain all of the themes of classical Greek drama.
Herentals, 23 July 1982 – Repetition is a frightfully diverse material. Repetition is visually structured; it is time made visible.
Herentals, 2 August 1982 – My work method consists mainly of studying the various forms of repetition and their meaning.
1/ the repetition of unconscious to conscious action: for example, breathing/hyperventilating, walking/treadmill movement, trying to fly/falling to the ground.
2/ the cycles of repetition: staging an action that repeats indefinitely, and that I can move to the front or the back of stage during the performance, for example,
getting dressed and undressed, and adding acted emotions.
3/ mimetic repetition: trying to copy and reiterate a staged action, without even the slightest physical or mental change. The accumulation and the culmination
of mimesis coincide with its disappearance.
4/ interchangeable repetition: the same movement, text or action is interpreted by different actors or dancers.
5/ immobile repetition: not moving, staying still (not doing anything?). The most difficult movement and action there is. And which should give off more energy.
6/ the impossibility of repetition: due to the primal force of change (by repetition).
Antwerp, 5 October 1982 – It’s driving me crazy. It’s not working. Every day, I continue repeating the title, the year and my name to these animals. Sometimes I feel like I’m more of a parrot than the two parrots who are supposed to play the final scene. After six weeks, they still can’t say: “C’est du théâtre comme c’était à espérer et à prévoir. 1982. Jan Fabre.” One says: “C’est du théâtre… c’est du théâtre.” The other one says: “1982, oui… oui… oui, oui 1982.”
How was the piece received in the 1980s?
Antwerp, 17 October 1982 – I just arrived home. It is 7 o’clock in the morning. The premiere of C’est du théâtre comme c’était à espérer et à prévoir has just finished. I think I’ve managed a “horizon crossing” of eight hours. The dynamics and intensity of the performance seemed to exert an irresistible force over the audience. I walked in and out of the room because I was supposed to be working the box office. And, four hours into the show, I was still selling tickets, at half price. At the end of the performance, we split the proceeds amongst us. Everyone got 437 Belgian francs. I survived a particularly whacky evening. Then I hitch-hiked home to Antwerp, still a little drunk, with some of the actors. I should be happy with what Breton wrote in Nadja. Life takes your breath away. But I, thank heavens, have a right to more than that. My life gives me breath. (Again, I suffer from insomnia.)
Antwerp, 19 October 1982 – There were nine spectators in the room; including Els Deceukelier’s sister and her boyfriend. They kissed noisily for six out of the eight hours of the show. A constant exchange of juvenile saliva that aggravated me no end and which even disturbed the performance during the silent moments. Quietly forcing the two of them into silence (with a pistol fitted with a silencer) would not have seemed dictatorial in any way. The bodies of the actors and dancers vibrated. Their bodies were like sounding-boards. Their bodies spoke before their voices moved into the space. I’m proud of my troupe. They received very long applause from the nine spectators. You would have thought there were 100 people in the room.
Antwerp, 21 October 1982 – Break out the champagne! Hugo de Greef, the head of the Kaaitheaterfestival, will make an exception for my piece. He has decided to put C’est du théâtre comme c’était à espérer et à prévoir on the festival programme. Even though it’s not a premiere, because, normally, he only shows premieres. I’m proud and ridiculous in equal measure.
Extract Journal de Nuit (1978-1984)
Célestins, Théâtre de Lyon
Dates et horaires
- Sun 21 Sep15:00
- Durée : 8h environ
- 1re série 29€
- 2ème série 25€
- 3ème série 16€
- 4ème série 10€
- 1re série 26€
- 2ème série 22€
- 3ème série 13€
- 4ème série 7€
- Dans l'abonnement Maison de la Danse
Piece for 9 dancers —1982 — Run time 1h
Conception : Jan Fabre
Musique : Guy Drieghe — Costumes : Pol Engels — Assistance à la mise en scène : Miet Martens, Renée Copraij — Interprètes : Maria Dafneros, Piet Defrancq, Mélissa Guérin, Carlijn Koppelmans, Lisa May, Giulia Perelli, Gilles Polet, Pietro Quadrino, Kasper Vandenberghe — Exécution costumes : Katarzyna Mielczarek — Technique : Thomas Vermaercke — Chargé de production : Helmut Van den Meersschaut
Accueil : Célestins, Théâtre de Lyon, Biennale de la danse
Production re-enactment 2012 Troubleyn / Jan Fabre. Coproduction DeSingel - Anvers (première Belge), Romaeuropa Festival - Rome, Impulstanz - International Dance Festival Wien (première mondiale 2012).
Photo © Wonge Bergmann - Portrait © DR