Imagine theatre only talked about our desires and fears: would it be any less political? No, it would be more political than ever. What if it didn't speak to citizens but to mortals: would it lose its ethical value? No, it would be even more concerned with ethics. What if it presented and represented not our social worries but our loves and sorrows: would it be any less necessary to create a feeling of community? No, it would be even more so.

All good theatre is political, but being political isn't enough for theatre to be legitimate. Theatre is more than a medium, it is a humanism. Has it lost some of its worth today, when anyone can broadcast images and individual publication rivals all other forms of collective storytelling? No, its aura is even greater, because its way of representing the human isn't like any other, it creates humaneness; theatre is an anthropogenic machine.

But do we know what the human is anymore? Doesn't the definition of this strange animal, made of hope and melancholy, escape us today? We no longer die like we did in Molière's time, we no longer desire like in Shakespeare's. Even though their work still speaks to us, our bodies, our perception of time, our knowledge of social sciences, our mating rituals, all of that has changed faster than the repertoire; posthumanity is right around the corner, death is no longer the limit of the human adventure, and the 21st-century body is equipped in such a way that we already live in a permanent state of ubiquity and telepathy.

Eros and Thanatos, desire and death turned by Freud into the ultimate beliefs, are the alpha and omega of all human stories. Those two magnificent gods, those unchanging parameters of our unconscious now have countless technological servants. How can we understand their new faces? How to escape the violence inherent to their rule? Theatre doesn't pit them against each other but brings them together in one place, makes them dance in the forest of the collective unconscious.

As soon as a character comes on stage, he calls on them, enters us into a dialogue with our desire and our death, not as violence without answer but as a celebration of our spiritual energy. We die, we desire, and through both, theatre, be it danced, spoken, or sung, gives back to the enigma that we are its original enthusiasm. And from there can we rethink politics not as the laborious organisation of interests but as the very conditions of access to meaning.

Culture would be but a formal catechism or an object of speculation if it didn't ask artists to remind us of the two truths that mark the boundaries of our existence: “Know your desire and remember that you will die.” Some may see it as philosophy, but for the performing arts, it is much more than that. It is a form of thought, more luminous, more generous, more dangerous. It is above all a good word we give each other, that youth teaches us and that we teach youth in return, and which is made bearable by the power of art.

The performing arts are different from the others in that they can't exist without presence. They are forever awaiting their audience, always torn by its impatience. This transmission, these infinite mirrors, this shared presence are both their condition for being and their ultimate goal. To finally bring us together, beyond our disappointments and differences, to celebrate enigmas, to ask of them the inextinguishable fire of conscience.

And to prove the strength of our community of spirit, to prove its diversity and its hunger, we will once again go towards works that will change us. We'll say, upon leaving those wonders, that we want to change our lives. That we want more passionate, more awakened lives, that we no longer want to waste any time in useless haggling, but instead spend it making our own capacity for amazement grow. And not only for us, but to let it colour our saddest days and material accidents. Not only for us, but to give it to those who'll come after.

This immaterial treasure is only ours so we can hand it to future generations and to those who, for the first time, are coming to Avignon without really knowing why, to experience a few days of excitement, in the heart of gay science, in the hurly-burly of the Festival. And this, then, is what we might call... the political.

Olivier Py


The medias