Baltoscandal 2010: “Big Bang” by Philippe Quesne

21st century theatre of absurd is not created through seemingly random dialogue as it was in the second part of the last century but with almost wordless, unacted and meaningless movements on stage. Vivarium Studio led by Philippe Quesne is a keen preacher of that kind of theatre and "Big Bang" an example of that. And thank god for that as Quesne's performances are full of unpretentious playfulness and can take it's audience on a rather bizarre trip through well-known facts and symbols without really worrying if the spectators can keep up. That's also why, as with Castellucci, the audience really has to work when watching the performance since the narrative must raise from each spectator's fantasy.

As a theatre critic, I've always been taught to compare the intentions of an artist to what was actually seen on stage but isn't it possible that with Quesne and Castellucci the spectator's narrative can differ from the intentions of artists without the art-work loosing it's communicativity? I would argue so but then how can one decide if the performance was a success? To me personally “Big Bang” was a really funny performance having a bit of a slow-down when the first boat was carried on stage and when the lowering of the back-curtain revealed second part of the stage that all together just took too much time so that the different segments of the narrative of boats were too far apart to enable me to really grasp the meaning of these Challenger 1-4's. But that's just me and I have seen Quesne's theatre once before - “L'effet de Serge” two years ago in Tampere – so most of the characters on stage (the astronauts, an old Fiat) and the actors portraying them (not the car obviously) were already known to me. What about the majority, were they able to get the narrative out of the performance? “L'effet de Serge” was probably more clear in it's structure of symbols and activities used – a guy giving short performances to strangers coming to his house – than “Big Bang”. Maybe because the latter took too wide of a topic – the recreation of existence – that inevitably suggested that some (political) statement can be expected and then, when none was given, as this is something Quesne isn't interested in, the performance relapsed a bit to playing with the chosen topic and not really addressing it. This could the reason some of the audience in Rakvere was unimpressed, even bored watching “Big Bang”. None the less, Quesne's absurd still didn't leave anyone indifferent as the beginning of the performance was liked by all.

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