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From “Je n’y suis plus” to “Dans le bleu”: a correspondence between Guy Warin and Magali Lemèle

We must learn how to lend ourselves to dreaming

when dreams lend themselves to us.

—Albert Camus

Guy Warin (GW): From the original production in September 2013 of Marie‑Claude Verdier’s monologue Je n’y suis plus to the stage premiere of your very first play, the road you have travelled has been strewn with adventures, obstacles, moments of solitude, and great experiences. What led you to write this autobiographical account of your journey, Dans le bleu?

Magali Lemèle (ML): Je n’y suis plus is the story of a young woman who loses her bearings, who locks herself up in her own prison. An inner big bang. A character who alternates between distress and self-mockery. A text on the borderline between monologue and slam.

Following the creation, alongside an extraordinary team, of Marie-Claude Verdier’s work, the shell of my isolation cracked.

I experienced a slow internal implosion.

Grief denied, pain buried ... my inner GPS derailing.

I needed light and space.

I headed out to sea to heal myself or be reborn or put myself in danger or maybe a little bit of all that—to go for broke.

Pushing myself to the limit. Facing adventure and the unknown. Defying life. Embracing my loneliness.

A baptism by sea.

I was drawn to the water as to an alternative medicine, setting sail in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 ...

During each journey, I learned to rebuild myself.

The sailboat became an island, an isolated and moving territory, a small world cut off from the larger one.

The experience changes your human relationships, your life habits, even your movements.

You embrace the rhythm of the sea, you become one with your boat.

The land is far away, it no longer exists.

The wind pushes you along

and it’s beautiful

and I breathed

and I looked at the sea

and I was fine

and I learned how to live again.

And after more than 20 years in the theatre world, I felt the urge to create a theatrical work that would reflect my passions, sailing and theatre, and combine poetry and life’s flaws and shortcomings.

To create a work that would redefine me.

So I dipped a toe in the water and I wrote; I immersed myself in words for the first time.

“How can I put it?”: I dared to tell.

At the helm of a new adventure,

At last, I WAS.

GW: You presented an early version of Dans le bleu as part of a Carte blanche at Espace René-Provost in Gatineau. Tell us about that first stage of writing, and about performing it in front of an audience.

ML: The idea took shape during my second sea voyage, in 2015. Armed with my GoPro, recorder and notebook, I observed the sea for hours on end and how it resonated with me. Thanks to my colleague, dramaturgical consultant Marie-Claude Verdier, I started my first writing project in the winter of 2016. A correspondence on the sea. The scenes built up in my notebooks, and the crossing to a more complete work quickly began to feel essential. In February 2017, Sylvie Dufour, the artistic director of the Théâtre de l’Île, offered me a Carte blanche at Espace René-Provost. I exuberantly dove headfirst into a sea of words, and the audience heard the first stammerings of Dans le bleu. Together, we slipped into an adventure at sea: a journey that brought our solitude face to face with the irresistible forces of nature, with everything that’s beyond our control and could submerge us at any moment.

GW: At the Zones Théâtrales biennial in September 2017, you presented a new workshop version of Dans le bleu, which you performed accompanied by a pianist. How did the play change between the Carte blanche and the workshop? What did you learn from your Zones Théâtrales experience?

ML: Between the time of my Carte blanche and the workshop, a death reawakened, the opening of a wound, a bereavement.

A ghost that was neither alive nor dead, and that I saw in the smiles of the children around me.

A voluntary interruption, a haunting shadow.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t have done all this for nothing.

I returned to the sea, but this time to cross the Atlantic from west to east.

An expedition that was a far cry from my other sailing trips.

And life caught up with me, and the sea no longer spared me, and I hit rock bottom.

The floating anchor adrift.

An initiatory voyage during which I faced multiple challenges.

On my return to land, I met Claude Guilmain, who would guide my workshop at Zones Théâtrales.

Before starting our writing lab, he asked me to tell him about my crossing ... and a long story of more than two hours ensued, as we sat together on a terrace.

Then a long silence.

He suggested that I write about this magnificently disturbing, dramatically poetic, strangely theatrical journey.

I settled down with my pencil and I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote ...

Forty-eight hours later, my personal odyssey was set down on paper.

A new version of Dans le bleuwas born.

To cross the blue immensity and add a second dimension to this writing effort, we met with pianist Venessa Lachance.

That meeting resulted in a tender marriage between my adventures on the waves and musical exploration. A necessary panacea to alleviate land sickness.

An ocean crossing is first of all the expression of a fascination, but above all a passage through one’s own questioning.

Lucky, I was.

The audience showed up, attentive, carried away in the wake of this unusual true-life story.

GW: The NAC French Theatre and the Théâtre de l’Île decided to join forces to support you in creating a production of Dans le bleu, which allowed you to work with a creative team. The first artist to join you was director Gabriel Plante. How did you meet him? What was his vision of your script?

I met Gabriel Plante during a residency at AXENÉO7, established by the Théâtre du Trillium, shortly after I came ashore in 2017. His sensitivity to words and sounds strongly appealed to me.

Since my artistic approach focuses on voice and rhythm, our meeting around Dans le bleuseemed like a great opportunity.

Also, I had a burning desire to work with a new creator ... something like when I leave on a sailboat and answer an ad.

Alone in a foreign land.

Curious to see what would inspire this man who didn’t know me and wasn’t part of my entourage.

A taste for risk, for danger.

The desire to spark something in myself, to confront the unknown.

To challenge my artistic self.

I knew Gabriel had what it takes to delve into dark areas, physical memory, human frailty ...

An “ideal” guide to accompany me on my ghost hunt.

Knowing that I couldn’t put the sea on stage, I thought it would be interesting to work with a director who could decontextualize things and find unexpected angles.

To continue your exploration of the universe of Dans le bleu, we suggest:

Les grands voyages ne nécessitent pas de grands moyens, a text by Gabriel Plante (Director of Dans le bleu), published in the NAC French Theatre's Cahier Seize (in French only)


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