What we do artistically
Our work originally started from a statement: French theatre was not known enough in the Uk and was given a wrong image. We started translating and pro-ducing works from a French speaking background. We wanted and stil want to create a popular theatre that carries spontaneity and goes beyond conservatism in the tradition of Jean Vilar’s idea of the TNP (National Popular Theatre). Having also worked with East asian techniques and Mauritian writings as well as music and videos in the first three years, we have now broaden our aim.
There are criterias corresponding to the “ethos” of the company. The plays we choose always incorporate ideas related to exile and unrootedness. We want to create multi-cultural work, or even muli-lingual. Like in The Exchange, our first show, which gave its name to the company, for example, and which is a bilingual show. In the Flies, where you can’t find an actor with the same accent, including two Greek actors, a Japanese, an Israeli, two French, three British and five Mauritians.
The projects always comes from an obvious relevance at a certain point in time. Then the playtext is the basis of the work because we want to make the audience discover rare or unknown texts, primarily. Devised work also happens but the body of work of a writer is always at the root of the work.
The company is called Exchange because that’s what we’re interested in, at many different levels: in cultures but also practi-cally in artistic forms. We have a will to explore various techniques and backgrounds. In The Flies, co-produced with Myriad productions, Kevin Rowntree, their artistic director brought his strong influences of non-western techniques from Japan or India. In The Exchange, it was the native American world that nourished the production. Whereas other shows wil be fed by references that are closer to us, more familiar and contemporary, like cinema, literature or music. Overall, a cocktail of western pop culture and non western influences.
Music always holds a special place in the shows, fully integrated as a design element. Like video. It’s a part of the company’s work that includes research on these forms. Original songs were composed for The Exchange, followed by a musician integrated in Bal Trap, until a full live-rock band in The Flies. Regarding video: a television set was in The Exchange, there was seven in The Flies, a projector was used in Business, four were used in Square(d). Future projects include the shooting of a short film to be integrated in a theatrical show. This is about pushing the borders between disciplines. All these inventions are all to serve the understanding of the play, the original text is at the heart of the work but those tools can make it more accessible. The aim, beyond mere discovery, is to make the plays accessible to a 21st century audience.
This myriad of influences and diversity at the heart of our creative work defines Exchange Theatre and imposes us, in order to be coherent, the need to think outside the box and get out of any define box, breaking moulds and borders between cultures and traditions.
David Furlong, artistic director