The associate artist of this 66th Festival is the actor and director Simon McBurney. After studying with Jacques Lecoq in Paris, he returned to London where he founded his company Complicite, which knows no bounds, either geographic or artistic. Each of his creations is an opportunity to bring together collaborators using all the media possible: words, often adapted from literature, bodies, gestures, images and music. Together they find a common language by creating an iconoclastic and moving theatre. Simon McBurney's choice to adapt, for the Cour d'honneur of the Popes' Palace, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov shows his desire to stage rich and lively stories in which different times and imaginative worlds intertwine, and to consider the theatre above all as a place for invention and commitment.

He shares this approach with the English writer John Berger, whose presence will also mark this Festival. Through his writings, he uncompromisingly tells about man and his capacity to love, society and its injustice, or works of art and their mysterious power.

The spirit of “complicity” will cross this Festival, to which we have invited artists from different horizons who, by inventing their own theatre, question us about its foundations:

- a theatre that asks itself what a contemporary form is, with plays from the repertory revisited by Arthur Nauzyciel or Stéphane Braunschweig, current texts written by Guillaume Vincent and Christophe Honoré, including another play that will be staged by Éric Vigner, theatre performances like the one proposed by the Forced Entertainment group;

- a theatre in tune with reality to talk about the deviations of financial systems with Nicolas Stemann and Bruno Meyssat, political violence in Colombia with the Mapa Teatro, in Lebanon with Lina Saneh and Rabih Mroué, at the borders of Europe with Fanny Bouyagui, environmental risks with Katie Mitchell, and Thomas Ostermeier, who will stage Henrik Ibsen;

- a theatre in which music enriches dramaturgy as much as words and images, as in Christoph Marthaler, William Kentridge, the 1927 company and Séverine Chavrier's work;

- a theatre that draws its narrative strength from contemporary literature, whether it is that of J. M. Coetzee for Kornél Mundruczó, David Peace for Jean-François Matignon or Elfriede Jelinek, W. G. Sebald or the Nouveau roman;

- plays inspired by the visual and performance arts, offering moments of new sensitive experiences as in Markus Öhrn, Romeo Castellucci, Steven Cohen, Jérôme Bel and Romeu Runa, and Sophie Calle's exhibition;

- and plays that find, in the body and choreography, a way to reflect on what brings us together and what sets us apart as with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Josef Nadj, Olivier Dubois, Régine Chopinot, Nacera Belaza and La Revue Éclair.

These artists are attempting to make performance a space for risks and sharing. Undoubtedly, this is also what led Jean Vilar to invent, in 1947, his own theatre in the Cour d'honneur of the Palais des papes, and then, after he decided to stop staging in the mid-1960s, to invite to the Festival other bold artists whose aesthetics were often very different from his. We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth with a show by the KompleXKapharnaüM company, and with the Maison Jean Vilar.

The drawing on the cover of this pre-programme comes from the artist William Kentridge's rehearsal sketchbook. For us, it expresses the courage needed to freely build reflection and to give this reflection a voice. Once again, this summer, we would like the Festival to be a place where this freedom can be exercised, for artists as well as spectators.

We're expecting you.

Hortense Archambault and Vincent Baudriller
Avignon, 5 March 2012