Conception and direction
HEN is a Swedish pronoun which entered their dictionary in 2015
and designates a person who is either male or female. It is often used in scholastic manuals working with less discriminatory pedagogy.
This creation is the result of research, labs dealing with questions of identity and gender, facing off against research on the origins of subversive puppet theatre.
Marionettes have a complex, passionate history in their relationship to subversion. They have been subjected to censure, been manipulated in the service of evangelizing, been used in partisan puppetry in wartime (for example during the Spanish War), been used in state propaganda (notably by the Soviets in Poland) or as part of an identitary discourse in colonialism.
Depending on the country where they are located, puppets have also been masked prostheses for conceptually or literally raised fists advocating some form of engagement. The manipulator/ puppeteer is hidden in a box, able to deliver political or social commentary and even erotic content. Often imbued with humor, this ‘carny’ theatre sometimes presented in the street or in cafés has been used to denounce, to amuse, to rally the bourgeoisie, property owners, law enforcement officials and death.
For this new project, we have created a new protagonist, HEN.
With a body made of foam, wood, metal and latex, detailed and sculpted, HEN is a puppet character, manipulated in full view of the audience by two actors. HEN transforms and plays with masculine and feminine images, thanks to a body which can change, imbued with sarcasm and insolence as necessary.
HEN is the name of this character who is neither in drag, transexual nor transgender. It’s HEN, a character who is full of life, exuberant, an outrageous diva, virile in heels, singing of love, hope, bodies and sexuality, with absolute freedom.
This creation relates to a musical story which was sourced in Berlin cabaret of the 30s and in current queer performance, off-the-wall cabaret channeling the dreams of Björk or the wisps of smoke of Brigitte Fontaine.
HEN is a chimeric creature who has no overt demands. It is through the character’s songs, actions, multiple identities and above all its intimate journey that its story develops. HEN exists in multiple identities, as embodied in the many costumes worn or the lack of them, the nudity of the bodies. Backstage, there are a number of HEN marionettes with the same face but slightly different bodies which will allow HEN onstageto take on different silhouettes.
The multiple body variations were created by Eduardo Felix, a plastician and sculptor, under the direction of Johanny Bert.
The project references a community which has been discriminated against, as well as old quarrels, unfortunately still valid politically and artistically. When searching for identity, or seeking absolute answers, HEN is perhaps an out-of-the-ordinary character, one not seeking either definition or norms. The character is multiple, transformable.
HEN is accompanied live onstage by electro-acoustic musicians
Guillaume Bongiraud is a cellist. A well-known musician, he is a member of the Delano Orchestra and actively participated with the group in the creation of Dévaste-Moi directed by Johanny Bert with Emmanuelle Laborit. He has arranged songs and composed for HEN, mixing acoustic sounds from the cello with live loops, electro sounds, and hybrid sound material. He is accompanied by Cyrille Froger, a multi instrumental percussionnist.