Mrs. Mnouchkine, the founder and director of the Théâtre du Soleil, has been continuously producing masterpieces with historical and political themes. Referring to traditional performances of both the East and the West, she has been innovating theatrical expressions through her collaborative creations based on the methodology of her unique theatrical organization which eschews hierarchical order.
Les Petits Bourgeois(Maxim Gorky)
La Cuisine (Arnold Wesker)
1789, la révolution doit s’arrêter à la perfection du bonheur
Richard II(William Shakespeare)
L’Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Cambodge,
L’Indiade ou l’Inde de leurs rêves (Hélène Cixous)
Les Atrides: Iphigénie à Aulis (Euripides),
Agamemnon, Les Choéphores, Les Euménides(Aeschylus)
Tambours sur la digue (Hélène Cixous)
Le Dernier Caravansérail (Odyssées)
Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir(with Hélène Cixous)
Une Chambre en Inde
Mrs. Ariane Mnouchkine has led the Théâtre du Soleil, a theater company she founded in 1964, for over half a century, and has continuously produced internationally acclaimed masterpieces. At the root of her superb talent lies a strong belief that theater is a form of art that should be collaboratively perceived, created, and enjoyed. She has gathered diverse talents and fostered their high mentality and rampant creativity by exploring and developing their latent skills and imaginations.
While producing for the stage, Mrs. Mnouchkine first inquired what theater is or should be and reconsidered its basic principles. This resulted in her original, hierarchy-free theatrical organization with its unique methodology of stage creation. She also considered the audience to be an important member of the “creators” indispensable to theater and attempted to build strong relationships between performer, director, and audience. Since the Théâtre du Soleil started its activities in the Cartoucherie (originally an ammunition factory transformed into a playhouse) in the outskirts of Paris, its performances have been appreciated like festive topos where all kinds of people encountered one another. It could be said that the Théâtre du Soleil embodied the ideal of “public theater.”
In order to keep her audiences emotionally engaged, Mrs. Mnouchkine pursued a theatrical method that emphasized physicality by referring to traditional performances such as circus, commedia dell’arte, Japanese Noh, Kabuki, Bunraku, and Indian Kathakali. She reconstructed them using modern sensibilities and explored a method of utilizing actors’ improvisation techniques, which culminated in her Tambours sur la digue (Drums on the Dam), which was inspired by Bunraku. In this work, she attempted to create a comprehensive art form that blended theater with various other genres such as dance, music, and literature. In experimental productions within the field of contemporary theater, her achievements have been remarkable.
In the early 1980s, she produced a cycle of three Shakespeare plays starting with Richard II(1981) and demonstrated her deep insight and superb directorial skills in her approach to classical plays. As in her prior works, 1789, la révolution doit s’arrêter à la perfection du bonheur(1789 or The Revolution Must Only Stop at the Perfection of Happiness) (1970) and Méphisto (Mephisto) (1979), she took a novel view of her own history along with those of her contemporaries and tried to shed new light on the chaotic darkness that plagued the modern age. Mrs. Mnouchkine preserved a reasonable amount of entertainment value while also strongly warning against the contemporary history and politics in L’Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Cambodge(The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia) (1985) written by HélèneCixous, featuring Cambodian genocide through the epic, Et soudain des nuits d’eveil(And Suddenly Wakeful Nights) (1997), featuring Tibet under oppression, and Le Dernier Caravansérail(The Last Caravanserai) (2003), depicting the hardships of refugees through their numerous testimonies.
All her theatrical activities are motivated by her strong determination to be involved with contemporary politics and society, and that is why she ventured as far as India and Afghanistan to hold workshops and instruct local actors. The Théâtre Aftaab, which was formed during her workshop in Kabul, has been active for more than a decade. Over several generations of actors, the Théâtre du Soleil has also achieved great success in fostering numerous multinational actors.