Within the framework of the European project Fabulamundi, we propose a semi-staged production by French playwright Pauline Peyrade.
Semi-staged shows are stage shows without definitive stage sets and costumes, in which the actors have worked all the situations and characters of the entire play, but do not yet have their lines fully memorised.
Punys is about fighting to pull oneself back together. It tells the story of five moments during a toxic relationship, from first meeting to final breaking point, told from the viewpoint of a woman in shock who is trying to make sense of what she has lived through. It’s the story of five actions with radical biases that bring loss to the surface. Exhausting oneself in order to be awoken, destroying oneself in order to be rebuilt, travelling far away in order to be closer to oneself; every experience explores a borderline state to reveal the relentless force of refusal and resistance that we each carry: eyes that never look downwards, fists firmly clenched in the dark.
Punys is a fight to manage to restore oneself. It consists of five moments from a toxic love story (WEST, NORTH, SOUTH, POINTS, EAST), from the very first meeting to the final break-up, explained from the viewpoint of a woman in a state of shock who does everything possible to make sense out of all that she has lived through.
The first episode that was written is the one that now closes the show: “EAST”. It was a commission for the Festival of Avignon and the SACD for the programme Sujets à Vif (“Subjects in the flesh”) in 2015. On that occasion I coincided with Justine Berthillot, who is a circus performer, and it was for her that I wrote the text and with whom we created the show in France in 2018. The first episode, from 2015, tells of an attempt to flee that is frustrated since, when she reaches the bridge over the Seine, the heroine turns tail and goes back to her cage. As the text was of a certain length, I felt it was better to roll out the story, investigating questions of confinement, manipulation and alienation and finding an exit route for the character.
The play is built like a polyptych and investigates the reasons for the break-up and the disorientation, in both the form and the content. We are just post-impact, in full memory of the trauma. The main character reviews the principal episodes of her story (the first meeting, the traumatic memory, the everyday aggression) in order to understand what has happened to her and how she has been able to bear, to accept, to survive all this for so long. She relives the experience of the division, of the internal conflict, (which appears represented in the text by two characters, YOU and I) and assumes the risk of losing herself again. The danger of this venture will help her to find an escape route inside herself. Thus, Punys opens up a mental space and gives rise to the appearance of screened scenes, not all of them desired. The lover, the man, appears in the work as HE: the name already makes it clear that we will see him through her eyes. We journey, therefore, deep into her subjectivity.
To make evident the character’s disorientation and bewilderment, each part of the text is anchored in a particular formal universe, radically opposed to the others. Musical score, tale, dialogued scene, sound poem or monologue; the textual material is transformed to the rhythm of the comings and goings of the senses and of the memory, still raw, the victim of sudden changes of direction. The character emerges pushed by a cardinal point, from one territory to the other, but always immersed in the most profound immobility. This tension between upheavals and frenetic movements of thought is what explains the dynamics of repetition, which form the structural backbone of the play.
In summary, Punys is a kind of interior fresco in motion of a story that is told and re-told in order to find an escape route. The subtext that it hides are the questions of inter-dependence, alienation, consented violence, the problematic place where two characters who behave like cat and dog orbit.
The text is published by Les Solitaires Intempestifs. In France there have been several staged readings of it. It has caused enthusiasm among the reading committees of the Comédie-Française, the National Theatre of Strasbourg and the Mousson d’été.
The original production is a creation of the #CiE for the Festival SPRING and Les Subsistances (Lyon) in 2018.
This work-in-progress is carried out in the context of the Fabulamundi. Playwriting Europe project.