Alain Platel – meeting about “nicht schlafen”

Alain Platel has brought two shows to the Teatr Polski’s main stage; Jerzy Grzegorzewski, in Wroclaw, as part of the Dialog-festival. Making him the main director showcased in this year’s edition.

Patel is a director, with a nonformal educational background in dance or choreography. He was working as a psychologist teacher with children with disabilities. Fascinated by how these children looked and behaved, he wanted to accentuate their beauty and uniqueness. As a director, he observes people very carefully and relies on what people want to tell him. For him making theater is, about discovering life. He wants to bring people together and motivate them. Therefore, for me, both of his play’s fittingly captured the essence of this edition of Dialog, and the “Onward” slogan, seems to resonate in “Nicht Schlafen”.    

Fot. Marcin Oliva Soto

I am a big admirer of physical theater, and what it can achieve in making you feel just, by looking at the movement of the performers on a stage.  This show didn’t let down, on that front. The “Nicht Schlafen” performance seems extremely demanding in what it asks from its performers to convey nonverbally. The single female dancer in this ensemble put it as following, this piece is making an effort to provide a non-verbal answer, to what kind of a catastrophe the performance is about. What I saw on stage was a group of people/dancers, who are left to their own accord.  Somewhere in an African oasis (I imagine, due to the background sounds on stage). At first, they are full of aggression, and anger, that seems induced by fear. As the 100 minute long spectacle unveils in front of the audience, this aggression makes place, for a more collaborative interaction, between the dancers. There are moments where the coupling of the dancers makes me think of rebirth. The physical movements the coupled dancer’s display reminded me of organisms, who are in the process of growing. Finding new connections, building new relationships, even transforming into a new type of being. Maybe?!

Fot. Marcin Oliva Soto

Patel and his cast joined Tomasz Kirenczuk, at the cultural hub of the festival; bar Barbara. For a talk about this performance. Where I got to take a picture with the extraordinarily talented cast.

During this talk, Patel and the cast addressed the question; to why Mahler’s music was used in this piece? Patel answered this with; how Mahler worked in a time of catastrophe, similar to our own present. The last song of “Nicht Schlafen” is from Mahler’s: resurrection symphony, which is about the final moment of a human life, and the journey from one side to the other.  Mahler’s resurrection piece ends very big. Just as Patel’s does on, an exuberant, positive note.  

Patel’s work is very complex and layered. At this point I feel, that I have to share with you, how I’m not in the position to offer deep analyses. Therefore, in these blog posts, I talk about my personal experiences during the festival. I hope that my enthusiasm shines through in these pieces, and my fast believe that in times of crisis, and change, we should turn to our artists for guidance. They may not always get it totally right, for everyone, but I believe, that they try to offer a much needed new perspective on how to look at our reality, and display the ability, to be self-critical.

This piece for me, most of all showed a possibility of rebuilding a new reality, after a catastrophe takes place. Personally speaking, I believe that Patel with this performance shows hope, and most of all to not fear a catastrophe. Because we as a people can “rise again”, as is said, in Mahler’s closing verse in the resurrection symphony.

The audiences in Wroclaw have responded with positivity, to the themes in Patel’s shows, by showing up in big numbers. Did you happen to be in the audience for this performance? What was your interpretation of this piece?