The Waterclash semi-final

Creation 1983

It is pain exhibitionism. A show about violence and the appetite for it. The ambulance that rushes the dead knight off at the end of the battle is an everyday image. I think there is within us horror and fascination in equal measures when faced with the spectacle of death. This is a form of complacency. When a crowd is found on the stands of the arena for a bullfight, the costumes and rituals remind me more than anything, of a manic and macabre ceremony. This reality, this head to head with violence, is far more concrete and compelling than the illusion of reality usually offered in theatre.

The Waterclash semi-final is a shock. Twenty minutes of aesthetic violence, like a bullfight. The fighters’ blows are real, weapons break, the armour is damaged, and helmets smash. The washing machines are crushed methodically, obsessively under the weight of the scrap yard philharmonic. Then, in an almost hysterical way, the musicians, who are carried away by their music, trample and twist the material. The rock band, JOHNNY BC, rip the place up with their electric guitars. The crowds gather on the high visibility lines surrounding the square. Visual artists create swirls of leaves on the floor, feathers, buckets of colour are flung into the sky and suspend a second before falling on the fighters, causing instantaneous images, ephemeral canvases, elusive and punctual. The horsemen’s armour is ordinary machines: toilet bowls powered by small scooter engines ; whilst the conductor remains unperturbed in his bathtub.

Humour usurps violence and takes its place on the square in the same reality. Their differences create conflicting emotions, an uneasy relationship with violence that takes the audience back to the notion of their own ambiguity. The key for us is not to cheat reality. Each Waterclash demands a week of work, not acting rehearsals (no way), but preparation. Weapons must be remade, armour and shields reconstructed. Saddles fixed. This week's preparation is something akin to the meditative period required before a battle : it is always an extreme pleasure to perform Waterclash and pleasure turns into growing excitement as the day of battle approaches. Waterclash does not need "actors," it needs only individuals charged with inner violence and an awareness of it.

© Jean-Luc Courcoult, writer, director - Founder of the company Royal de Luxe