Royal de Luxe

Story of the Company

This is a company of inventors, stuntmen, poets and scrap-dealers all at once, led by Jean-Luc Courcoult. Royal de Luxe are currently considered to be an iconic, almost mythical, street theater company - equal to the Theatre du Soleil for conventional indoor theatre.

It all started in 1979 in Aix-en-Provence, where Jean-Luc Courcoult, Véronique Loève and Didier Gallot-Lavallée directed, with the help of fellow actors and musicians, their first production "Cape Horn". Convinced that it was easier to reach an audience by going outside rather than dragging them into a room, the show was played on the streets and in public open spaces. The trio did not stop there, but increased performances with a new production in 1980, "The Mysteries of the big freezer" and took the name of Royal de Luxe, a nod to the model of multi-track tape they used for writing their shows.

In 1981 the company moved and settled in Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the Cevennes mountains, where they created “La Mallette Infernale" and the children’s show "Croquenitule and Crolenotte" ; "The Blessing Of the Cours Mirabeau By The Pope" and "Terror In The Elevator" (1981-1982) ; "The Shoe Parking" "Urban Advertising", "The Waterclash Semi-Final" and "The Heart Bidet" (1983).

The titles chosen reflect how important urban culture, objects from modern day life, and a taste for the unorthodox, is for the company.

These shows were played in France and abroad, including Germany and Italy, and started to attract growing attention from the general public and theater programmers.During a performance in Paris they were spotted by André Gintzburger who soon became their agent.

In 1984, the company expanded and moved to Lavaur, near Toulouse. There, they developed a collective brand image and began to work on varying forms of entertainment.


 

Specifically, they developed a show extending over three days : the point was to be able to tell a story to an entire city by adapting to the city. The concept led to several productions, including "The Bracciano Lake" (1984, Toulouse) and "Large Mammals, Incredible Love Story Between A Horse And A Barge" (1985, Toulouse) ; "The Return of Roland (Roncesvalles)" and " Remington District Corporation " were created for the Nimes Feria.

Another form of theater was the ‘Town Square Theatre’ concept : "Amnesium Perfume" (1985), better known under the title "Photo-Novel". The company was awarded the Golden Rail prize following "Theater Pulls Into The Station," organized by the SNCF (French national railways company) and the French Ministry of Culture. Shows were held in French train stations until 1986.

In 1985, two parades (the first of many), were also emerging in two different cities : "The Barge On The Toulouse Boulevards " and "The Hamburg Cage".

But the company was also exploring other concepts, such as the show without notice, also called "Theatrical Accident", “The Bus On A Spit” (1986,Toulouse and Denmark). In 1987, the company produces "Desgarones" (Valladolid and Amsterdam), a ritual whereby cars are put to death by putting them on a spit in public on a bus or a tram.

Finally, the company explores the joys of the fifteen minute production by reviving "The Semi-final Waterclash" and taking up residence in a space in Toulouse with "The Tree House" and taking "Cars In Trees" to Lisbon in 1988. This form is based on the idea of a rendezvous with the audience every day in the same place and at the same time, around an unusual event such as a couple moving into a tree.


1987 proved to be a real springboard year for the company. It was at this point that they started to develop a second version of “Photo Novel", and began a new tour. The production, based on the ‘Town Square Theatre’ style, brought them back to the more burlesque style of their beginnings. Thanks to its devastating humour and social relevance, it had great success both nationally and internationally. It was performed two hundred and forty times in twenty-two European and Latin American countries, as well as in Africa and the USSR. During the winter of 1991, it toured Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1988, Royal de Luxe packed up and headed for North Africa. They settled in southern Morocco for ten weeks in order to conduct research and development into the souks and markets. The purpose of this long stay was to find new inspiration and to develop new forms of theater that would differ from what Western audiences were accustomed to. This idea would lead the company to make several more trips abroad during the following years.

In October 1989, having returned to Toulouse, the company received a call from the mayor of Nantes, offering them funding and the use of a disused warehouse on the banks of the Loire river. It is an offer they cannot refuse. Royal de Luxe leaves Toulouse, the ‘Pink City’, and moves to Nantes. It is in these new premises that work on "The True History of France" begins - a ‘Town Square’ piece that will be performed five times at the Festival d'Avignon in 1990 in front of the Palais des Papes. This marks the first official programming for the company and also the first sign of recognition by the French theater institutions. The festival kicks off with a series of twenty-three performances in a further ten French cities as co-production. Despite the company’s new found funding and recognition, it clings to its original principles, namely its free performances for audiences.

By 1991, "The True History of France" had been played sixteen times in Europe and nineteen times in France, twice at La Defense in Paris to more than 10,000 spectators.


1992 sees the introduction of the Cargo 92 tour, initiated and devised by Royal de Luxe. It is part of the commemoration of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America and receives financial support from the City of Nantes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. However, Cargo 92 is unlike most other tours : it brings together four companies - Philippe Découflé dance company, Mano Negra band, Philippe Genty puppet company and Royal de Luxe - all in the same boat, a cargo ship bought especially and called The Melquiades.

In the cargo hold, Royal de Luxe team builds a French city street where they welcome the public at each stop in South America. Thus, "The True Story of France" is performed in seven countries and six ports on the Atlantic coast of Latin America - Caracas (Venezuela), Bogota and Cartagena (Colombia), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Rio and Sao Paulo (Brazil), Montevideo (Uruguay), Buenos Aires (Argentina) either in city centers or in the harbors with the cargo ship as a backdrop. Mano Negra and Decouflé company join Royal de Luxe in making "The Big Parade Of The Real History Of France" which travels to Caracas, Rio, Buenos Aires, before returning to Nantes.

In early 1993, on their return from Latin America, the company shut for four months in Nantes to work on a new production, a show without notice. The show "The Traffic-Jams" is born: twenty vehicles with unusual scenes played on their roofs, criss-crossing the city from six to nine in the morning or evening during rush hour traffic. With this production, the company hoped to engage the audience with accidental theatrical scenes during their daily journeys. Chance and surprise are essential ingredients ; the public should be surprised and unprepared. Motorists and passers-by in Dijon, Antwerp and Saint-Brieuc have all been witness to these imaginary meetings and have had their daily commute enriched by this show.


In 1992 Royal de Luxe is contractualised and receives assistance from the state becoming an independent company free from commission.

In September 1993, Le Volcan national theatre invites Royal De Luxe to Le Havre. They create the "The Giant Who Fell From heaven." For the first time, this show embodies the strong desire the company has to tell a story in a city in three days : "There once was a Giant who lived in the clouds. One day he fell from the sky and onto a boulevard. When he awoke, the humans had tied him up. The following day, they walked him through the city in a large cage for the entertainment of all. But every night the Giant dreamt, and the humans were afraid of his dreams. So they built a big wall of light to prevent him from sleeping. That night the Giant dreamt so hard he broke his cage and disappeared into the light ... ". Although the story is presented in this way, the audience does not know how each day will unfold and they must search for the Giant to find out what happens next. The Giant is manipulated in full view by a team of actors all dressed in red. With tousled hair, a black look in their eyes and bare legs up to the knee. Faced with this Giant, these friendly characters are reminiscent of Jules Verne and the Lilliputians and add something to this fantastical world. It is these same characters who, using pulleys and strings, will bring to life, through movement and breath, the other Giant characters yet to be born.

The following year is devoted to this Giant who has been invited to many cities. He can be spotted in the streets of Calais, Nimes, Nantes and Bayonne. From 1 to 4 October 1993, he returns to Le Havre for a new production, "The Giant Who Fell From Heaven : Final Journey”. Since escaping Le Havre, the Giant had never stopped traveling, encountering cities and mountains. Exhausted, he enters into the belly of a volcano (the name refers to Le Havre national theatre Le Volcan) out of the earth and return to this city. So, the humans build him a large raft and the Giant disappears, carried away by the waves. Thus, after passing through other cities, the legend continues to the great delight of audiences.


From late 1994 to May 1995, Royal de Luxe creates a ‘Town Square’ show in front of the stands, "The Epic", which again draws its subject and form from popular films ; the action takes place more than two thousand years ago, in Egypt. The show is a huge success in its first touring year : it is performed forty-six times in eleven French cities as well as in Vienna, and in Antwerp. In 1996 it is played thirty-nine times in eleven cities all over Europe. In 1997, ten performances are held in Australia, and a further twelve in Europe. We estimate that 350 000 saw the show between 1995 and 1997.

In addition to “The Epic”, three other shows are running in 1997. The Giant returns to Barcelona for four days ; the synopsis is adapted to the Catalan city, including a Giant sitting on Gaudi’s Pedrera. The show is a great success and it is estimated that 200 to 300 000 people attended.

In the same year another show is created, "The Rhinoceros," and with it a new machine. It is previewed in Arles during the Rencontres Internationales de la Photo and is performed every day at the Universal Exhibition in Lisbon in 1998. Finally, "The House in the Trees" is taken to Nantes, this time from 22 to 26 August.

From October 1997 to March 1998, Royal de Luxe commits itself to a six month theatrical adventure in Cameroon and moves to Foulou, in the North of the country. The theater happenings take place in village market places in Cameroon. The company draws on African tales to create all sorts of mechanical objects and operated puppets to be manipulated on demand by several actors during these short performances. Of all the shows created during this adventure, "Around Cameroon By Bike" made the greatest impact due to it involving the audience in comedy cycling competition in front of a map of Cameroon. It is during this trip that the Little Black Giant, key character of the next show, takes his first steps.


In 1998, Royal de Luxe is back on European soil with a series of shows based on Africa and devised for large cities. A new story-line with the Giant, following the blueprint of previous shows (one arrival and one departure with two days in between), is presented to audiences in a show called "Return From Africa". The Giant on his raft is carried to the coast of Africa where he discovers a village of black Giants who welcome him and give him a son, to whom he tells his stories about the small white men. One day, discovering his son has left, the Giant begins his search for him perched on the roof of a bus. In 1998, the Giant and his son appear in three French cities (Le Havre, Calais and Nantes) as well as in Antwerp, Belgium. Both march in a parade to the rhythm of four huge music machines brought to life by fifty-five musicians from Burkina Faso.

In 1999, Royal de Luxe returns to a lighter style of “Town Square Theatre” and create "Little Negro Tales Provisional Title" on the 5th June in Nantes, a show consisting of nine Afro-European inspired tales from their Cameroon adventures. The audience, sitting on a bench especially designed for the company, pulls the order of the stories to tell out of a hat and in this way participate directly in the running of the show. Co-produced by Mission 2000 in France, it is performed in a dozen cities during the summer and opens the Avignon Festival. Seventy-two performances take place from June to October to about 70,000 spectators. In 2000, the company returns to story-telling, this time in Spanish, and fly to South America. The famous show, "Pequeños cuentos titulo provisorio negros" is played in Valparaiso, Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires. From May to July of that year, a new European tour enables them to perform the show in a dozen cities.


From August 2000, the company continues its work on parades with the creation of two new puppets. A new story in the tradition of the giants is born, "The Giraffe Hunters," featuring the Little Giant’s encounter with a giraffe and her baby giraffe. Created in Nantes, this story is then told in Le Havre and Calais before tens of thousands of spectators. Since 1993, these three cities have been the key stages of these Giant stories and have followed the saga with care and attention.

In Spring 2001, Royal de Luxe leaves for China for a long stay in Guan Cun, a remote village in the Shaanxi province, and takes with him the “Little Negro Tales”. Six Chinese artists join the team and after three months of rehearsals, the company returns to Nantes with a new show, "Little Chinese Tales Revised And Corrected By Negroes." The show is played thirty times in Paris and Nantes until October. In April 2002, Royal De Luxe is invited to Vietnam at Hue Festival, to introduce these new tales and stage imperial dinners in the Forbidden City. In May, the show is shown in Seoul, Korea. From mid-July to mid-November, "Small Chinese Tales Revised And Corrected By The Negroes" is played sixty times in several French cities.

In 2003, under the amateur company name "The Trestle Of The Minstrels," Royal de Luxe present "Sale! Two Shows For The Price Of One ". This a simultaneous production of two the two theatre classics “Hamlet” by Shakespeare and “The Imaginary Invalid” by Moliere staged on a turntable which get stuck and goes awry. Initially, with the complicity of the festival of Aurillac, the company performs this production in several cities in Auvergne. In January 2004, invited by the Festival International Teatro a Mil, a Spanish adaptation of the show is presented during a Chilean tour. This takes the cast through Valparaiso, Santiago and to the northern region of the Atacama Desert. Fourteen shows are performed with a total of over 20,000 spectators.


From mid-April to late October 2004, the show is played eighty times in twenty-nine cities, twenty-one of which welcome Royal de Luxe for the first time. The company moves from a regional tour to small towns to an international tour passing through Madrid and Pamplona. During the 2004 spring-autumn tour, an estimated 72,000 spectators see the production.

In 2005, "Roman Photo / Amnesico Perfume" is revived by the Chilean company Gran Reyneta in a staging by Jean-Luc Courcoult, coproduced with Royal de Luxe. The show is performed at the International Theatre Festival in Santiago, Chile before embarking on a tour of several festivals in Latin America and Europe.

In May of that year, the company creates "The Visit Of The Sultan Of The Indies On His Time-Travelling Elephant". It is the story of a sultan who travels around the planet through time and space on an elephant. The openings take place in Nantes and Amiens in connection with the Jules Verne centenary. Hundreds of thousands of people attend to enjoy this new story: In Nantes, the reunion with this fascinating giant saga enlivens the city and talk is of little else for several days, whilst audiences in Amiens are surprised to discover the encounter between a little girl-giant and a royal elephant.

In July 2005 and then again in October, the company resume performances of "Sale! Two Shows For The Price Of One" in an international tour. Later that year they start to work with patients from Nantes Psychiatric Hospital. "Fools" is the first project that the company centers on the world of madness.

From May to October 2006, the Sultan perched on his elephant, can be spotted on the streets of London, Antwerp, Le Havre and Calais. London audiences welcome the visiting sultan with wonder and surprise, while the French spectators applaud these new giant characters.


In August, Royal de Luxe comes to the Pont du Gard, where they perform "Sale! Two Shows For The Price Of One "and build an installation : “The Great Giant: Visit Of The Pont Du Gard. "

Minstrels of the trestle are coming to the end of their 4th season with twenty-six performances in the Pays de la Loire, Rhone-Alpes regions... over 160 performances of this show.

In 2007, at the request of the International Festival Teatro a Mil, Royal de Luxe dreams up a new Giant story featuring a meeting between the Little Girl-Giant and, not an elephant from India, but a rhinoceros, A production that the Royal De Luxe faithful had already seen a decade ago. "The Pequeña y el Gigante rinoceronte escondido" (the Little Girl-Giant And The Rhinoceros Hide) is presented from January 25 to 28 in Santiago de Chile and achieves success exceeding anyone’s imagination. More than two million Chileans watch on creating the company’s biggest triumph for this first outing of the giants outside Europe.

In May, the Little Girl-Giant continues her journey in a new story through Iceland this time : "The Geyser of Reykjavik." Created especially for the close of the season at the French art festival in Reykjavik, the story is based on Nordic folklore.

In autumn 2007, Royal de Luxe develops a new form of street theater, the window show, and proposes a new production "The Revolt Of The Mannequins". In the form of urban comics in shop windows, mannequins rebelled for nine days in Charleville for the twentieth anniversary of the National College of puppetry.

"The Revolt of the mannequins' is performed in Nantes in February 2008. Having been fed with new stories and influences since the first performance, the production now comprises of a dozen windows. After Nantes, the Royal de Luxe mannequins invaded the shop windows of several cities throughout Europe and appeared in Maastricht in March, and Amiens and Antwerp in the months that followed.


In May 2008 the street theater festival Imaginarius of Santa Maria da Feira in Portugal, who had already hosted two of the company’s productions - "Sale! Two Shows For The Price Of One "in 2004 and" Roman Photo " by Gran Reyneta in 2006 - commissioned Royal de Luxe to create a new Giant story "The Story Of The Giant Who Was Buried Alive" in connection with the medieval castle’s history.

In November, the Berliner Festspiele provides eleven shop-fronts for the company in the KaDeWe department store in Berlin to host the show "The Revolt Of The Mannequins". After this, the sets leave for Australia in February 2009 as part of 'Perth International Arts Festival and in March 2010 move on to Wellington, New Zealand, at the invitation of the International Festival of Arts.

Along with the activity of the Royal de Luxe, Jean Luc Courcoult embarks upon a new project with Gran Reyneta and creates a new show in a genre unexplored by the Chilean company or even Royal de Luxe : a street musical called "The Nightmares Of Toni Travolta". After more than seven months in France for its creation, the opening takes place in May 2008 at the Art Rock Festival in Saint-Brieuc, before starting a big tour throughout Europe (seventy-seven dates) and then to Chile in South America in early 2009, during another Festival Teatro a Mil in Santiago.

This tour is currently still going and will continue for the foreseeable future. A new story following the saga of the Giants was born in spring 2009 in the Royal de Luxe workshops in Nantes with a Deep-Sea Diver and a Little Girl-Giant as main characters, armed with a boat and a strange wave manipulated by Lilliputians like puppets ... These modern-day tales performed across a city for three days and whose story-lines marry the history of a country are available to a wide audience, sensitive to emotion and poetry procured by these Giants.


The Little Girl-Giant and the Deep-Sea Diver and have traveled the world with the following shows:

  • "The Little Girl-Giant Of The Titanic And The Deep-Sea Diver" on 5, 6 and 7 June for the launch of the Biennial of Contemporary Art "Estuary 2009" in Nantes - Saint-Nazaire.
  • "The Berlin Rendez-Vous" opened the festivities commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall from 1st to 4th October 2009
  • "The Invitation" 29, 30 and 31 January 2010 in Santiago, Chile as part of the Bicentennial of Independence and 100 years of Chilean theater (3 million viewers).
  • "The Diver, His Hand And The Little Girl-Giant" on 20, 21 and 22 August in Antwerp (more than 800,000 spectators).

2010 saw the birth of a new Giant in the workshops of the company, a Xolo, a Mexican dog-god specially created for the show "The Giant of Guadalajara." This installment of the saga of the Giants was presented from 23 to 28 November 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico to celebrate the Bicentennial of Independence and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution (3.5 million viewers). From 27 to 29 May 2011, Nantes, in turn, met the newest member of the company at the show "El Xolo" (600,000 viewers).


 

In 2012 Royal de Luxe was again very successful as much in France as internationally with its creations:

  • Immense success for “Sea Odyssey”, the last story from the Giants’ saga that celebrated the Centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 20th, 21st and 22nd in Liverpool. More than 800 000 spectators. To keep in memory this tale that made the hearts of Liverpool inhabitants’ beat faster, the city has commissioned a beautiful book that was published by Liverpool University Press.
  • “Rue de la Chute”, a performance for squares. This adaptation of the Conquest of the West has literally charmed the audience during its tour in Spring / Summer 2012 – Nantes, Antwerp, Paris, Aurillac, Saint-Gaudens, Ramonville… More than 50 000 spectators. Here again can be found the language and the inspiration of Royal de Luxe that has largely contributed to its reputation: humour, poetry, special effects.

In 2014, Royal de Luxe presents a new Giant: 
  • "Le mur de Planck" the Nantes discover the Grandmother Giant who pours a flow of legends to the entire city.
  • “Memories of August 1914”, labelled by 14-18 NOW this show launched the commemorations dedicated to the Centenary of the First World War. The Grandmother Giant told more than 1 million persons the story of these happy people who went away in 1914 with the King’s Regiment.
  • "The Grandmother fallen from the galaxy into a field in Munster”, Granny, having fallen from the sky, found herself spread-eagled in a potato field in the middle of Munster. This show took place in Limerick (Ireland) and was written on the program of Limerick Irish City of Culture (230 000 pers.)

In 2014, Royal de Luxe presents "Dakar-Dakar" which tells the story of a survivor of the last “Paris-Dakar ». After an extraordinary epic, he arrives in the capital of Senegal to organize the first static bike race. During a week of celebration in Dakar (Senegal) the show is presented through the city and a big sporting competition is organized in various districts.

"The incredible and phenomenal journey of the Giants" was an epic show with the Little Girl-Giant and the Deep Sea Diver commemorating the centenary of Anzac in Perth (Australia), 1.4 million people attended the show in February 2015.

The most recent show of the company is called "De Reuzen". In June 2015, Royal de Luxe is in Antwerp for the fourth time as the company is invited by the Zomer van Antwerpen Festival. Various generations of people have met the Giants in Antwerp and a strong relationship has been built between the Belgian city and the Giants over the years.

 

Creations

  • 1979 : Cape Horn
  • 1980 : The mysteries of the large freezer
  • 1981 : The Infernal trunk / Croquenitule  and Crolenotte
  • 1981-1982 :The Blessing of the cours Mirabeau by The Pope / Terror in the elevator
  • 1982 : The shoes parking
  • 1982-1983 : Urban advertising
  • 1983 : The cardiac bidet / Waterclash Semi-final
  • 1984 : The  Bracciano lake
  • 1985 : The return of Roland (de Roncevaux) / The Hamburg cage / Remington District Corporation / The Big Mammals or the Incredible Love story between a horse and a barge / The barge on the boulevards of Toulouse / Amnesium Perfume roman-photo: shoot
  • 1986 : The wall of light / The bus on a spit
  • 1987 : Desgarones
  • 1988 : The House in the Trees / The piano in the block of ice / Cars in trees
  • 1990 : The True History of France
  • 1992 : Cargo 92 (Reconstruction of a street in Nantes on board a cargo ship)
  • 1993 : Traffic Jams / The Giant who fell from the Sky
  • 1994 : The Giant who fell from Heaven, Final Journey
  • 1995 : The Peplum
  • 1997 : Rhinoceros / The Giant in Barcelona / Residency in Cameroon for six months
  • 1998 : Return from Africa
  • 1999 : Petits contes nègres, titre provisoire
  • 2000 : Giraffes hunter / Residency in China during three months
  • 2001 : Petits contes chinois revus et corrigés par les nègres
  • 2003 : Trestle of the minstrels : Sales! Two shows for the price of one
  • 2005 : The madmen presented within the CHU of Nantes / Photo-novel Acquisition by the Chiliean company Gran Reynata / The f the Sultan of Indies Visit on his Time Travelling Elephant
  • 2006 : The Giant : visits the Pont du Gard
  • 2007 : Little girl-Giant and the hidden rhinoceros /The House in the Loire / The geyser of Reykjavik / The Mannequin's revolt
  • 2008 : Toni Travolta's Nightmares by the Chilian company Gran Reynata / The fabulous story of the Warrior buried alive of Santa Maria
  • 2009 : The Giantess of the Titanic and the deep-sea diver / The Berlin appointment
  • 2010 : The Invitation, to Santiago in Chilei/ The Deep-sea Diver, his Hand and the Little Girl-Giant, in Antwerpen in Belgium / The Giant of Guadalajara, in Mexico
  • 2011 : El Xolo in Nantes
  • 2012 : Sea Odyssee in Liverpool in England
  • 2012 : Fall street
  • 2014 : The Planck wall
  • 2014 : Memories of August 1914
  • 2014 : The Grandmother fallen from the galaxy into a field in Munster
  • 2014 : Dakar-Dakar
  • 2015 : The Incredible and phenomenal journey of the Giants to the street of Perth
  • 2015 : De Reuzen, The Planck wall

The Tours

To discover all the tours, do not hesitate to consult the map of the world.