Nombre: interview with the creators
Alexandrine, Claudiane, and Krystel together form le Collectif Alpha Charlie Kilo. They are the three creators of the show Nombre, whose adaptation for young audiences, a co-production of Théâtre la Seizième and Théâtre Catapulte, will be touring high schools in British Columbia starting April 19. They talk to us about this unique participatory experience for young people.
How did you become the Alpha Charlie Kilo collective? And could you tell us about your artistic approach?
Alexandrine, Claudiane & Krystel: We are a group of three creative artists with a passion for humans and for encountering the other. Our collective stems from an eagerness to empower the audience as a creative entity integrated deeper within the creation process. Alpha Charlie Kilo wishes to put forward a great and often neglected strength of the theatre; that of the gathering. To shift the nature of the audience by turning it into a raw commodity. To create a venue where audiences can explore their sense of community through innovative devices focused on human connections. To become purveyors of hopeful perspectives and to celebrate both the beauty and the inconsistencies of the human condition.
Alpha Charlie Kilo, where is that name coming from anyway?
A., C. & K.: Because we love to travel and explore, this terminology reminds us of that used by airline crews, the NATO phonetic alphabet or radiotelephone-spelling alphabet. The A, C and K respectively stand for our first names initials: Alexandrine, Claudiane and Krystel.
Nombre was first created as a mainstage performance before being adapted for young audiences. How did the original show come to be?
A., C. & K.: Nombre was born out of the desire to create a performance whereby the artists accompany the audience in creating a play. Besides, when you attend a performance, you know nothing about whoever is sitting next to you. You experience something together and yet remain total strangers. We felt like making a play that could expand upon this very reality. We remembered one of our spontaneous creations from 10 years ago. The Periscope theatre was hosting a series of Cartes Blanches theatrical evenings. During one of these evenings, the artists were given the following challenge: authors had 24 hours to produce a short text of their choosing and performers had 24 hours to stage it. We were given a text by Maxime Robin consisting essentially of pieces of advice from a dying mother to her son. We wrote down each sentence on small marked slips of paper, bearing different directions to be followed. For a moment, we turned into conductors and the audience was our instrument. The audience was entranced by the magnificent ballet that was created before our eyes. The genesis of the play we would develop 10 years later was born!
Theatre la Seizième and Theatre Catapulte invited you to adapt the performance for a young audience, why did you accept?
A., C. & K.: The reason for creating the play is deeply linked to the reason for our alliance: the desire to talk about real life, to unite it with the fictitious, to relate without trickery, to produce an artwork that pushes the students out of their comfort zone, to speak of the impact of technology and social media on youngsters. Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic, human contact has very much been altered. We witnessed the performance’s impact on young people at the theatre and were keen to engage with them.
How challenging was it to make Nombre relevant to young audiences?
A., C. & K.: The performance aims at creating genuine temporary bonds between individuals. Several moments were adjusted due to health regulations. As we are not in the same physical space as the audiences, it was essential to consider a more technologically advanced version of the performance, which was well beyond our skills… and further still from our prime desire to remind everyone about the value of human contact, unfiltered. Making the technical set-up as straightforward as possible while preserving the magic of an arts venue is quite challenging.
Has the pandemic altered your creative process?
A., C. & K.: Yes and no. Many of the earlier versions of Nombre were created remotely because we live far apart. Thus the early part of the creation went well. However, we had always had some time available towards the end of creating each version to get together and design the visual aspect of the performance. This time around, everything had to be done remotely. That brought its fair share of challenges. You could say that our creativity was welcome! Also and most importantly, it will be a big leap of faith to be so far away from our audience during the performances. Nonetheless, it made us rehearse remotely on Zoom, which the artists running the show will have to do anyway!
You set out to build a play that would bring people together. How important is that to you?
A., C. & K.: Relationships nowadays often seem to be tainted by the various media through which they come to life. We wanted to get back to the very essence of the encounter, of the awareness of the other alongside us. Being curious about the other is essential. We have travelled a lot and part of the purpose behind Nombre was to travel some more and meet other cultures. The pandemic has put a damper on this dream, but it remains true that you can have meaningful encounters anywhere. The key is to embrace differences, to listen, to be forthcoming and open-minded.