L'Empereur de la perte

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The 2005 archive

Jan Fabre


L'Empereur de la perte © Christophe Raynaud de Lage / Festival d'Avignon


A world utterly at the mercy of the power of theatrical imagination is what Jan Fabre has been advocating since C'est du Théâtre Comme Il Etait à Espérer et à Prévoir (1982) and Le Pouvoir des Folies Théâtrales (1984). Those were the first of his pieces to draw attention with their
flouting of stage convention. It's a kind of Theatre of Rebellion (As Long as the World Needs a Warrior's Soul, 2000), influenced by his training in plastic arts and his practical experience of performance art, simultaneously bringing to the stage a time related to materials of the painter, as well as that related to human beings or animals (Parrots and Guinea Pigs, 2002). However, everything is created out of the body and its language. The physical body in Sweet Temptations (1991), spiritual in Universal Copyrights 1&9 (1995) and erotic in Glowing Icons
(1997). This body, that has memory and fundamental instincts similar to those of animals, is endowed with the almost magical power of metamorphosis. That is why he likes to describe his actors as "warriors of beauty", drawn into the enormity of images and dreams. Nonetheless, over and above excess, and often with humour or irony, Jan Fabre manifests a profound affection towards humankind and its weaknesses. In all these years entirely devoted to his art, a protean body of work which includes sculptures and installations, text and stage-production – more than thirty pieces to date - Jan Fabre, from the workshop to the tangible work, from the studio to the stage, has pursued the feverish quest of his visions. In his work, people are defined by their impulses, from the place where their beauty lies, in their bodies, their pleasure, from ecstasy to agony, from subservience to revolt. From his monologues (Elle Etait et Elle Est, Même, Etant Donnés) or personal solos custom-designed for his performers (Quando l'Uomo Principale è Una Donna, L'Ange de la Mort) to his flamboyant group pieces, the approach of this "man who measures clouds", preserves a flavour of childhood and games. Relying on his intuition, Jan Fabre works relentlessly on the plasticity of bodies, seeking to pour them into a poetic mould and create new horizons. Jan Fabre has already presented a number of pieces at the Avignon Festival, Das Glas im Kopf wird vom Glas in 1988, My Movements are Alone Like Street-Dogs in 2000, Je Suis Sang in the Courtyard of Honour in the Pope's Palace as well as an installation, Umbraculum in 2001 and L'Ange de la Mort in 2004.

Written in 1996, L'Empereur de la Perte (The Emperor of Loss) – the first part of a diptych comprising two monologues, this one and Le Roi du Plagiat (The King of Plagiarism) – examines the identity, the position of the artist. Jan Fabre's revisited text is performed by Dirk Roofthooft, the well-known actor with whom the director works closely. A clown is perched on a podium and in between his entertaining and juggling acts, he does some analysing, some interpreting and some fantasizing. He has a friend, a tiny ant, he has impossible dreams and a heart that is too big so he had to take it out of his body and now he doesn't know what to do with it. He's a proud clown who wants to find the absolute, and in his art he uses the many facets of a character with paradoxical behaviour. His body is traversed, inhabited by other personalities. Sometimes he's Prospero, then Satan or Popov, he dreams of light and would like to be an angel. Marvellous and ironic, tragic and grotesque, this text, to some extent certainly autobiographical, contains one of the director's personal beliefs, "My work is a debate about the artificiality of the theatre, the construction of image and the metamorphosis of the body." A text cannot exist without an actor, words are spun for and around the actor, but they also have to suffer a confrontation with the actor's stage work. In Jan Fabre's work they come to life through the actors for whom he tailors an invisible garment out of irony and sentiment.


Text, direction, scenography : Jan Fabre
Cast : Dirk Roofthooft
Traduction : Olivier Taymans
Dramaturg : Miet Martens
Assistant : Coraline Lamaison
Lighting : Geert Vanderauwera, Jan Fabre
Mask : Gerda Vanhoof


Production : Troubleyn / Jan Fabre (Anvers)
En coproduction avec : deSingel (Anvers), Festival d'Avignon, Bonlieu - Scène nationale d'Annecy, Espace Malraux - Scène nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie, Comédie de Valence - Centre dramatique national Drôme Ardèche avec le soutien de la Région Rhône-Alpes
Texte français publié : par L'Arche éditeur

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