LASALLE students delighted international audiences with their performance of Kuo Pao Kun's iconic play, The Coffin Is Too Big For the Hole, at the Festival De L' Union Des Ecoles 2018, a theatre festival in Limoges, France. In its second year, the Festival brought together an international community of theatre practitioners and students, facilitating an exuberant exchange of ideas, knowledge and skills across borders.
A performance by students at the Festival. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin)
The Festival is a combined effort between Le Theatre de l'Union, the major theatre for the Limousin region of France, and L'Academie de l'Union, a conservatoire-style academy focused on training students in physical theatre and clowning. A truly international exchange of ideas, participating arts institutions hailed from countries as diverse as China, Korea, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Canada. All participating institutions put up performances, alongside a programme of masterclasses conducted by established visiting artists and arts educators.
Part-time LASALLE lecturer Marc Goldberg (first from right) giving a masterclass on Multi-Lingual Performance. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin)
LASALLE was invited to participate in this year's Festival by Jean Lambert-wild, celebrated clown and director of L'Academie. LASALLE is no stranger to collaborating with L'Academie de L'Union, thanks to the efforts of part-time lecturer Marc Goldberg, who initiated contact between the schools two years ago. Marc collaborated with Jean Lambert-wild on his Clown Trilogy, and has involved different batches of LASALLE students in the various iterations of this performance over the years. Programme Leader for Diploma in Performance, Matt Grey, is also aiming to incorporate absurdist clowning into the LASALLE curriculum, to help students develop flexible imaginative reach alongside technical rigour.
LASALLE students performing alongside Jean Lambert-wild in Les Clown Des Marais (Swamps Clown) at TheatreWorks 72-13 in 2016. (Photo: Jean Lambert-wild)
Two recent graduates of the Diploma in Performance Programme, Glenn Tan and Gauraangi Chopra, represented LASALLE at the Festival, together with Programme Leader Matt Grey and part-time Lecturer Marc Goldberg. Their performance of Kuo Pao Kun's The Coffin Is Too Big For the Hole took place at Éspace Noriac, a beautifully converted church in Limoges, interweaving various aspects of mask work, shadow work, kathak dance and even multimedia elements into the story.
Elements of shadow work and puppetry were integrated into the students' performance of The Coffin Is Too Big For the Hole. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin)
The staging was well-received by the festival audience, who praised the students for the quality of their inventiveness, as well as their craft and mise-en-scène. Due to their excellent performance, both the production and LASALLE received significant coverage on both radio and online platforms. The genuine excitement from the French hosts in response to Coffin is a testament to the enduring power of Singaporean theatre, and how theatre, when powerfully staged, can easily transcend national and linguistic boundaries.
In addition to performances by all of the visiting schools, there were masterclasses delivered by established visiting artists and arts educators, including a session on biomechanics by Vladimir Granov, an improvisation class by Alain Degois, and two masterclasses by LASALLE lecturers; Activating the Somatic Voice by Matt Grey, and Multi-Lingual Performance by Marc Goldberg, who has translated and published some of Kuo Pao Kun's plays–including Coffin–into French.
Such exchanges are invaluable to LASALLE students as it provides them with opportunities for international exposure, developing practitioners who are at ease both at home and abroad. By representing LASALLE at the festival, Glenn and Gauraangi received a valuable opportunity to engage with fellow performers-in-training with different experiences, backgrounds and aspirations. The generosity with which the French host students welcomed them and the active curiosity they displayed towards Singapore theatre really helped Glenn and Gauraangi to integrate themselves into the international community of students, further encouraging them to socialise and swap ideas with others at the festival.
Left: Gauraangi performing in The Coffin Is Too Big For the Hole. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin) Right: Gauraangi, Glenn and other festival participants in Matt Grey's masterclass on Activating the Somatic Voice. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin)
Bolstered by this triumphant exchange, the collaboration between the Academy and LASALLE doesn't end here - Matt Grey has since been invited back to run further training courses at L'Academie, where Voice has been considered to be a weaker element of their training, and Jean Lambert-wild has plans to organise a regular exchange programme, allowing his students the opportunity to train at LASALLE.
We look forward to future theatre-making collaborations between the Academy and LASALLE!
Cover image: Diploma in Performance students Glenn and Gauraangi perform Kuo Pao Kun's The Coffin Is Too Big For the Hole at the Festival De L' Union Des Ecoles 2018. (Photo: L'Académie de l'Union École Supérieure Prof. de Théâtre du Limousin)