Last July, the regulars of the Festival d’Avignon could see Tiago Rodrigues running enthusiastically from one performance to another, as a still almost ordinary festival-goer. 1er September, the Portuguese director officially took up his post at the helm of the festival. Post he is the first foreign artist to occupy.
“It’s a dream come truehe assures with an almost childish joy. I have been living a love affair with the festival for a few years. Today is a bit like a wedding! »
Avignon, “the place of a beautiful utopia”
The romance began in 2015, when Tiago Rodrigues was invited by Olivier Py to give his Antony and Cleopatra at the Théâtre Benoît-XII. “Avignon was a dream constantly postponedhe says. When I was young, I was struck by videos of Ariane Mnouchkine’s Shakespeare, mahabharata by Peter Brook: for me it was a mythical place, the place of a beautiful utopia. »
What will “his” festival look like? The face of its first edition will not be unveiled until next March, but it already reveals some features. “We decided to look at the world through languages, he explains. They tell the history of peoples, they are rich in memory and in permanent novelty. » Each year, a language will be honoured, starting with English, of which he wishes to show all the richness.
Tiago Rodrigues cultivates a passion for languages himself: he has mastered four and plans to launch an attack on a fifth, Arabic. As for French, which he speaks perfectly, he learned it off the cuff in the early 2000s. “Tg Stan (a Belgian collective) offered me to play with them in Toulouse… in Frenchhe says. I really wanted to do this piece and I assured them that I spoke well, which was not true. I enrolled at the Alliance Française in Lisbon and worked like crazy for a month to be ready. »
Happiness in the theater
At the time, Tiago Rodrigues cut his teeth as an actor at Tg Stan, which he joined in 1997, after an unfortunate stint at the Lisbon Conservatory. “I was not considered a good studenthe recalls. I asked a director friend how he found me, if he thought I should continue. He replied that if it was at the theater that I felt happy, that’s where I belonged. He was right, the most important thing is happiness. »
These years will remain for him “a founding experience”. He discovers there a collaborative process, always at the heart of his work. “A project, at the start, is always an empty stage and the play is written in a dialogue with the actorshe explains. I write the text for them and we put it to the test together in rehearsal, it is sometimes modified until the last moment. »
With the company Mundo Perfeito, founded in 2003 with Magda Bizzaro, then at the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II in Lisbon, which he directs from 2015 to 2021, Tiago Rodrigues travels Shakespeare’s sonnets, in By Heart in 2014, on a daily basis for humanitarian workers, with To the extent of the impossible in 2022. He who once dreamed of being a journalist like his father, resolutely defines himself as a “storyteller”.
An inveterate reader
Born in Portugal after the dictatorship in 1977, he grew up in “only child for ten years” before the birth of his brother: “I was often alone but I had access to many books, they became my friends”, he confides. On vacation with his grandparents in La Guarda, he gets into the habit of hiding in a cherry tree to read in peace. It is there that he discovers Madame Bovary with “a feeling of forbidden”. Years later, he will create Bovary on Flaubert’s trial after the publication of the novel.
If he remained the reader “voracious” he was 10 years old, it is now at the theater that he deceives his loneliness. “I like this human assembly around words in an ephemeral, unpredictable moment”, he underlines, animated by the “collective dimension” of his art. His ability to push too.
He presents this week in Paris Catarina and the Beauty of Killing Fascists. This dystopia, which under a deliberately provocative title questions non-violence, has already sparked heated controversy in Portugal and Italy. A controversy that is not to displease the director : “It strengthens my confidence in the theater and my desire, the urgency that I feel to create. »
An inspiration – Choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas
“I am inspired by a lot of stories and authors from the past but also very nourished by gestures of the present. The Cape Verdean choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas, performing at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, is one of those contemporary artists who bring me a lot. I was lucky enough to be able to follow his journey from his first works in Portugal. She manages to give the scene a very deep physical emotion while carrying out an absolutely fascinating reflection. His work is an improbable, but so happy marriage between the physical animal, which we are, and a thought with metaphysical density: it is incredibly powerful. »