Zimmermann & de Perrot
HANS WAS HEIRI
Like magicians conjuring up something out of nothing, Zimmermann & de Perrot elicit hidden meaning from objects, bodies and sounds. After Gaff Aff, Öper Öpis and Chouf Ouchouf Zimmermann & de Perrot are again attempting to explain the inexplicable.
Hans was Heiri builds on the insight that we humans are surprisingly similar when it comes to basic needs and desires. Does life often seem to fail simply because we, as individuals, try so hard to be unique and different?>> more
-In Hans was Heiri, Zimmermann & de Perrot approach this conundrum with wit, humour, frustration and philosophical depth. Together with five outstanding circus artists and dancers, they again manage, based on the artistic quality of their production, to take audiences to places beyond expectations.
Different, the same, or just difference in sameness Whatever, Hans was Heiri.
Meeting at the Zimmermann & de Perrot Studio
Zimmermann & de Perrot, a machine that goes to the head
by Anne Fournier
A book about Jacques Tati, a few sewing machines, an LP of Michael Jackson’s Bad or a cardboard model of the stage set. Everything seems to be in the right place, but is it? Or perhaps the opposite is true. Martin Zimmermann and Dimitri de Perrot have set up their workshop in Zurich, in a disused factory soon to be demolished in order to make way for more modern tower blocks in the western zone of the city. They are the last workers on the site, arriving last August with their equipment to sculpt Hans was Heiri, literally “John like Henry”. With their love of wordplay and anomalies, they murmur “it’s one and the same”. The show was created on 17th January 2012 at the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, where Gopf (1999), Hoi (2001), Gaff Aff (2006) and Öper Öpis (2008) had already seen the light of day, the pursuit of tics, those rogue instants which soundlessly whisper of the great Magic of life. From the torments of stress to the final toppling over.
Martin is the dancer, the contortionist, the agitator who looks as if he could easily be knocked over, trained at the Centre national des arts du cirque in Châlons-en-Champagne. Dimitri is the musician, a magician of the turntables, a self-taught juggler of vinyl, the mixer of conventional wisdom. These eternal accomplices have been working and talking together now for over ten years. Is it really ‘one and the same’, ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’? Occasionally grave, often caustic, they guarantee disorder. In the past few years their universe, which they claim is made of plasticine, has travelled the world, from New York to Sydney.
This morning, uninhibited by the chill of an autumnal day, they describe their genesis, who they are. Somewhat serious, a bit punctilious, a little mad, heads slightly lowered and with the occasional black look. One roars, the other keeps his feet on the ground. Or perhaps the other way round. For artists who claim to be wary of words, theirs are captivating. Whether the subject is art or Roger Federer.
“At the outset there is always our dialogue, our questions about life. Each of us progresses. As we work as a duo, we simultaneously seek our individuality and the meaning that is common to us both. It’s a struggle. It’s hard work keeping a couple together.”
The adventure began for Martin (41) and Dimitri (35) in 1999 , originally as a threesome. The stage brothers were born. Since then they refer to themselves, without embarrassment, as a “couple”, thanks to which each becomes a little more familiar with himself, seeing in his partner that he is moving forward. Juggling with bodies and sounds, their sculpture/shows pose the same questions about the identity of human beings seeking both their niche and their poise while the formulation of these interrogations is modulated according to experience and the passage of time. Thus, the artists have gradually, escapade after escapade, sketched their route with a scenic language which defies definition. Acrobats or clowns, their work also bears the stamp of a Marcel Duchamp, whose chair becomes the central character of a universe in chaos.
Zimmermann & de Perrot, indubitably one of the most exciting Swiss companies of the moment, is an enterprise with a staff of forty odd people which travels the planet and still has no fixed abode. To prepare Hans was Heiri, the company settled in Zurich, supported by the city’s cultural service. Does this mean less pressure? The aim has never been to be big, but to progress, to understand; slowly, perhaps, and continually asking the same dangerous questions. “You finish one show and already you want to start another, because you haven’t said everything that you wanted to say”.
“We spend several months creating our characters, sketching in their personalities after a casting. We get performers to talk about themselves, to open up; but they are also a reflection of ourselves. Then the scenes are born, the tensions that operate in us. It’s like a farm worker breaking up the soil with his pickaxe”.
Martin and Dimitri look at each other, with a small smile, one drumming on the table, almost anxiously; the other continues to draw. Approaching the forties is also the time of maturity, with the ageing of the body and the turning of the wheel. After their unparalleled direction of Chouf Ouchouf, they both return on stage for Hans was Heiri : in the rehearsal room Dimitri’s sound system seems to play the role of safeguard. The two artists from Zurich can count on the collaboration of five talented individuals from the field of dance-theatre, that of creators like Alain Platel or Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, for example. They want them to keep their autonomy, to delve into their know-how in order to invent something new. “It’s a real laboratory”.
So, chicken or egg? Six of one or half a dozen of the other? John or Henry? Martin or Dimitri? Martin as Dimitri? Their latest enigma is hair-raising. Is life just the failure of our ambition to become unique individuals? Hans was Heiri plays on the phenomenon of projection, coupled with the anxiety of resembling one’s neighbour, the feeling of imprisonment.
Martin and Dimitri have created a mini-world of five individuals, somewhat of the shabby-chic variety. It is a “gigantic washing machine” or a “hamster wheel”, depending on who is describing it, in which everything becomes similar but each participant remains lonely. Why do the energies that we experience in solitude disappear behind masks once we go through the door? Why do we have to fear our desires, especially when we know that our neighbour is on the same wheel? All these things exist in human beings and, finally, leave him with his loneliness.
“The set is our starting point. It represents the situation which is going to deform the world as we know it. Everything begins here. Our theatre is a sculpture, an invention to be exploited with our bodies.”
When he enters the factory where they are rehearsing, Martin already has his eye on it. ‘It’ is the world that turns, the world that brings their theatre to life. At the back of the room is a huge, dark, wooden wheel with a square divided into four equal spaces. Everything is dark. Everything can become floor or ceiling. The technician turns it. One images salamander-like bodies, desperately clinging to the walls. Those of Hans or Heiri. Dimitri: “in certain situations, hanging upside down, he who thinks will fall. He who asks no questions remains on his chair. He is the one who knows nothing, but who can be alone, can be himself.”
Zimmermann & de Perrot’s new décor, like the preceding ones, constitutes the incipit of their work, the reasons why they call themselves ‘artisans’, are inventors, rewarded by the Prize for Design of the Swiss Confederation this year. From the first blank page, it has taken over a year and the work of three engineers and Ingo, their set designer, to build this “washing machine” and certain nails fortuitously forgotten in its tubes sing the story of passing time. They draw a lot from preliminary sketches and create a scale model to understand the space. Then the content comes to fit it. The image is born. It narrates its mythes.
“We are very germanic as far as work is concerned. We have the same sort of meticulousness and love of detail as a Christoph Marthaler. Added to that, we do not carry the weight of a cultural inheritance as the French-speaking Swiss do. We’re really just anything. Just free spirits.”
The sound of the sewing machine is a reminder of the implacability of timetables. Martin and Dmitri are finicky. Dreamers with their feet firmly on the ground, each with his own universe, his family, his sweetheart, his children. Their world tours have not diminished their essential ‘swissness’. Even when invited to the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, they continue to remind each other that “this is nice but afterwards we’re still going to have to go home”.
Naive ? They prefer the word ‘curious’ ,like wild birds who observe the world and who know that things are not always what we were taught they are. And who own a ‘mystery’: the capacity of walking on a stage to tell stories that help us grow. “Perhaps you have already read this somewhere: we like to say that we do everything very seriously, but take nothing seriously.”
(english translation by Heather Turin)
Zimmermann & de Perrot
HANS WAS HEIRI
Created with: Tarek Halaby, Dimitri Jourde, Dimitri de Perrot, Gaël Santisteva, Mélissa Von Vépy, Methinee Wongtrakoon, Martin Zimmermann.
|Concept, direction and stage design:||Zimmermann & de Perrot|
|Composition:||Dimitri de Perrot|
|Construction Decor:||Ingo Groher, Christiane Voth|
|Light creation:||Ursula Degen|
|Sound creation:||Andy Neresheimer|
|Oeil extérieur||Eugénie Rebetez|
|Vocal Coach||Marcel Fässler|
|Yoga teacher||Dominique Müller|
|Light direction:|| Veit Kälin /
|Sound direction:|| Franck Bourgoin /
Felix Lämmli /
|Stage manager:|| Roger Studer /
|Stage direction:|| Mateu Pascual Labourdette /
|Technical production:||Sarah Büchel|
|Accounting and Secretariat:||Conny Heeb|
|Administration and booking:||Alain Vuignier|
|International producer:||Claire Béjanin|
|Artistic direction:||Dimitri de Perrot / Martin Zimmermann|
|Production:||Verein Zimmermann & de Perrot|
|Coproduction:|| Athens & Epidaurus Festival
ECT/SCT Scène Catalane Transfrontalière – Théâtre de l’Archipel (Perpignan) & El Canal, Centre d’Arts Scéniques (Salt)
Equinoxe, scène nationale de Châteauroux
Espace Jean Legendre, Théâtre de Compiègne
International Istanbul Theater Festival
La Filature, scène nationale de Mulhouse
Le Lieu Unique, scène nationale de Nantes
Le – Maillon, Théâtre de Strasbourg – scène européenne
Le Volcan – scène nationale du Havre
Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg
Migros culture percentage
Movimentos Festwochen der Autostadt in Wolfsburg
Fondazione Campania dei Festival – Napoli Teatro Festival Italia
Théâtre de la Ville, Paris
Zürcher Theater Spektakel
|With support from: Ernst Göhner Stiftung, SSA – swiss society of authors|
|Thanks to Theater Neumarkt, Zurich|
Zimmermann & de Perrot are backed by a cooperative contract of support between the city of Zurich’s department of cultural affaires, the cultural affairs service of Canton Zurich and Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council.
Since 2006 Zimmermann & de Perrot have enjoyed the support of Foundation BNP Paribas for development of their projects.
|Final rehearsals and premiere Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, January 17, 2012|