Les Naufrages Du Fol Espoir (Aurores)

Les Naufrages Du Fol Espoir (Aurores)
4 stars ****
Lowand Hall, Ingliston

THE MONTH IS JULY 1914; and in a huge attic in northern France, a man called Jean, in love with film, is making a movie – a popular adventure story about nationalism, capitalism and imperialism, and the struggle for something better. Outside, the clouds of war are gathering. But Jean and his two-dozen-strong company of would-be artists believe that the people of Europe will not allow themselves to be sacrificed, over empty nationalistic squabbles.

This is the situation conjured up in Ariane Mnouchkine’s astonishing four-hour show, with which – on her first-ever visit to Edinburgh – she and her legendary Theatre Du Soleil of Paris transform the Lowland Hall into a true factory of dreams. There is a lush score of European classical music; and it accompanies scenes from the fictional movie that are presented with a terrific sense of comic choreography and slapstick, as the performers not being filmed throw themselves around the stage, following the camera, and creating weather for actors whose story leads them to a shipwreck in the Antarctic ocean.

Eventually, the relentless playfulness of these scenes is a little long-drawn-out. But by plunging us into the heart of a genuine creative process, at one of the mighty turning-points of European history, Mnouchkine and her company leave us with a powerful sense of history as something not fixed, but made from moment to moment, by people much like us; and of how it could have been different, if nationalism had not triumphed over socialism, in that summer of 1914, and plunged our world into half a century of war.

Joyce McMillan
Until 28 August
EIF p.9


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