Francophonies: "Zoé" by Hassane Kouyaté, "theatre has a mirror role"

Talking about everything from almost nothing. To give birth to a whole society with a man and a woman on stage. Create a world from a few pieces of wood. With his very refined staging of "Zoé", presented in creation at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges, Hassane Kassi Kouyaté sublimates and amplifies the philosophical text of the Quebec author Olivier Choinière on the meaning of life and the doubts of being right, embodied with a precious and profound fragility by the two actors Adélaïde Bigot and Patrick Le Mauff. Maintenance.

Adélaïde Bigot and Patrick Le Mauff in "Zoé", text by Olivier Choinière and directed by Hassane Kassi Kouyaté at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges. © Christophe Péan

By: Siegfried Forster Follow


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RFI: Your play Zoé begins with a kind of impasse: a general strike at the university and a confrontation between Luc, an old professor, and Zoé, a young student, who has obtained an injunction from a judge obliging her professor to teach her. Why is this a situation emblematic enough to merit a staging in the theatre?

Hassane Kassi Kouyaté: Because it is a situation where we say that a certain majority makes a decision, but we do not take into account the opinion of those who did not vote for this decision. A show allows the starting point of a discussion where we also listen to other opinions.

You were born into a family of griots in Burkina Faso and today director of the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges. In the play, Luc explains that the name Zoé means "life" in Latin. Is this show a life lesson?

For me, it is a show of hope, because it is an agora, a platform, a place given to discussion. The play allows a debate between two points of view carried by two people from two different generations. And in our society today, we need it more and more, because, in France and in Europe, there is more and more "youthism", from the age of 50, we are considered old, so this is the age from which we begin to be able to improve and give things. So, Zoé is a space for intergenerational exchange, where discussion allows us to enlighten us on certain places. We do not say that X is right and Y is wrong, but that everyone has his point of view and sees the world with the heart he has. It is about putting our points of view together to enlighten each other and build our present and our future.

The show also draws its strength from the economy of the means used: a man with his red shirt and a woman with his green sweater represent on stage two generations, two social classes and two different points of view. And a few pieces of wood on the floor transform the space into a room and agora. Did you design Zoe as a drama lesson?

I do not pretend to give a lesson, but I really want to defend what I love about theatre, which is to say: to leave room for words, ideas that are given and to share with the public. I try to erase as much artifice as possible to leave room for our imagination that accompanies actors and actresses on stage.

"Zoé", directed by Hassane Kassi Kouyaté at the festival "Les Francophonies – des écritures à la scène" in Limoges. © KHKvision

After Léa and the theory of complex systems, Zoé is the second piece about a society out of breath and in a dead end where the old rules no longer work. What is the role of theatre in an era when scientists are warning of the danger of the climate crisis and the risk of extinction?

I think theatre has a mirror role. If we manage to put these mirrors, clean them, we will be able to see ourselves better. The human being, when he is arrested, he often sees only his front, but not his behind. The theater is the mirror that shows us the sides that we do not often see. When we stop, we don't know what's under our feet. We have to put a step aside to see what is under our feet. Theatre allows us to take this step aside. Today, where is the impasse? From my point of view, there is a problem of dialogue, a problem of real exchange platform. We are manipulated by capital and everything that goes with it: xenophobia, etc. We develop fears that cause us to build barriers of all kinds: psychic, physical, intellectual, moral, etc. And these barriers extinguish the light between peoples, between people, between generations. Theatre - and this is what we are proposing this year also in the programming of the Festival des Francophonies - we are trying to break down these barriers and give the opportunity to see beyond the walls that have been built.

Zoé is the text of a Quebec author. Did that play a role in the staging, since it is a confrontation between two points of view, between two conceptions of the world?

I have often noticed that Quebec authors tackle very contemporary subjects, and in a very lively, very direct, unfiltered way. That's what I find in Olivier Choinière's writing, but I also find a virtuosity of dialogue writing in the theater. It is an ongoing dialogue, from beginning to end. It's a fabulous gift for actors who know how to tell.

► Read also: Opening of the 40th Francophonies in Limoges, the epicenter of French-language theatrical creation

► Les Zébrures d'automne of the festival "Les Francophonies – des écritures à la scène", from 20 to 30 September, in Limoges, France

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