Le Groupe

Conception Fanny de Chaillé
based on the Letter of Lord Chandos of Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Stage design and costumes Nadia Lauro
Sound engineer Manuel Coursin
Lights Willy Cessa
With Guillaume Bailliart, Christine Bombal, Christophe Ives, Grégoire Monsaingeon 

Production Display in coproduction with l’Espace Malraux – Scène nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie, les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou, le Festival d’Automne in Paris, le Parc de la Villette as part of the artist’s residences 2014, le Carré, les Colonnes – scène conventionnée Saint-Médard-en-Jalles et Blanquefort, le Centre dramatique national de Haute-Normandie, le Musée de la Danse, Centre Chorégraphique National de Rennes et de Bretagne // With the support of the Ménagerie de Verre à Paris as part of Studiolabs.

Fanny de Chaillé is an associated artist to l’Epace Malraux, Scène nationale de Chambéry and de la Savoie.
Display association is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, DRAC Ile-de-France as part of help to the company.

Show created in October 04th 2014 at l’Espace Malraux- Scène nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie.


A musician, a scenographer, actors and dancers are gathered to make Le Groupe and explore La lettre de Lord Chandos. Fanny de Chaillé, who questioned in her creations our relation to language and its organic extension, find in this centenarian and extraordinarly modern text a field of expertise. Choosing to transform this private confession into a public show, she supplies her thought on language’s power and impasses, offering for the stage a surprising physical translation of a text. This work of art is like a shield against dispossession of meaning to which our modern society is exposed to.


Interview with Fanny de Chaillé

Your new creatin, Le Groupe, is based on Lettre de Lord Chandos, a poetic text from Hugo von Hofmannsthal, written in 1902. What is the nature of this letter and what is its subject?

It’s a very particular text written by an Austrian poet who became famous very young, to such an extent that he was nicknamed the « Viennese Rimbaud ». This letter has a paradoxical status that interest me a lot because it’s a fiction but at the text publication, the character has been immediately confused with its author. The Lettre de Lord Chandos is also called the  » Hofmannsthal crisis » and indeed it’s about an author who is writing that he can’t write anymore, because the words lost all value. He writes that « words interposed before things« …
So the letter is rolling out, with a pompous handwriting very early century like, such as a intimate quest of pure sensation.

So it’s a writing that deplores the impossibility of writing. It’s a shape of farewell to words…

Yes, sort of. In the Hofmannsthal’s work, the idea of losing the meaning and the possibility or not to reinvent the language is ubiquitous. What’s beautiful in that, is that from the moment he written this letter, he decided not to write poetry anymore and to give himself to drama. That’s amazing! He did that for many reasons but the first one was to go from a aesthetic system to an ethical system. In other words, he has the impression it’s in a theatre that he can stand up for morals reasons. Of course, we are going to use this idea a lot: how to defend collectively a speech in public? You must keep in mind that we are in 1902, at the beginning of psychoanalysis. You can totally feel when you read Hofmannsthal’s texts that there is a psychological problem, close to aphasia. Little by little in the letter, the character tips over in pure sensation, he gets mixed up with objects. The « I » is pressed by the being and gets confused with substance. I also like what it says about the relation the man maintains with the world because it puts anthropocentrism into perspective. In this text, the animal, the object, the stone, can suddenly be the equal of man. And I think there can be a real connection between what Chandos is experimenting and the choice that a dancer can make, for example, by deciding to stay quiet to enter in sensation. Hofmannsthal uses a beautiful metaphor… He writes that he is a mirror’s poet, always watching his reflection, and that one day he discovered that he had a shadow. That he was somebody, materially, physically, thanks to this shadow. It’s an idea on what we are going to work on with the visual artist Nadia Lauro who is in charge of stage design of the play.

You always work on language’s use and materiality. What is almost an inescapable text for you?

It’s a text I discovered when I was 19, that I love and I read frequently. It’s one of the great texts that question the text, it’s a story of the story of literature, the function and value of language and the place of words in society. I studied drama because it’s the only place left where people can talk to each other. So, yes this letter sum up everything I try to defend in my work. I bet it’s by language sensuality and tone that we can give language back its value. It’s a reflexion that already feed some of my previous play like Je suis un metteur en scène japonais – plays that are not strictly speaking « stagings » by the way. I never say that « I make  » the texts, contrary to drama people. I use an author text as a starting point.

Today, do you make a diagnosis of a lost of value and sense of words too?

That’s precisely why I created this play! I have the sensation of being circle by speeches that don’t make any sense. The media language cover us of succession of words with no sense. Communication and media succeed in making us not be listening! I’m insomniac and I often listen France Culture’s rebroadcasts of forty-or-so years, I can only notice how much the register has changed. These radio show are barely audible now because they take their time and make some room to silence… Today we are full by sounds, it is always necessary to supply and fill the silence… But the funny thing is that Hofmannsthal already makes the same diagnosis in its letter. He is cultivated, so rich in million literary references, that he doesn’t any more manage to find his own place. He says that from the moment he opens the mouth, it is thousands of deaths who open the mouth to his place. And that plunges him into a deep and devastating solitude.

It is about a solitary word, which you seize in a group. Why is the choice of this group important to expose it from the title?

Yes, the letter, it is an archetypal intimate confession and we are working on the fabrication of a collective story. The text makes the report of a failure and this failure is also the one of the solitude of the poet. He cannot share his evil with others because he is afraid of being taken for insane. I want to make a bet of the group to take care of this solitude. It’s like an antidote. It’ also an answer to the later invention of Hofmannsthal « the allomatique » (the conversation by the otherness), showing that we cannot build ourselves only by confronting with others « whether he is a man, book or landscape ».

You are known to invent playful games on stage using the linguistic phenomena (pronunciation, acts of statement, etc.) How, concretely, do you approach in a group this word?

The letter, normally, is an address made by a single individual and that amuses me imagining strategies to divide up this word. Nothing is still definitive at this day but it is possible that an actor takes care of the tone of a word, of an other one the emotion of the word, the third the breath of the sentence.
Work the text as a playful partition, in short. In my show, Je suis un metteur en scène japonais, I had worked on this kind of dissociation. Some took care of the feelings, others of bodies, so as to let the spectators reconstitute mentally the collective picture. I also want to work on the various registers of the group: the horde, the pack, the music group…

It is almost a musical, very formal approach…

I am interested in the sound and oral poetry a lot. I moreover studied this « movement » to the university, to the point to begin a thesis on the subject. I was very fast interested in the literatures which played with the questions of shape, materiality and manipulation of the language. The literature under constraint fascinates me and I work a little bit in this way. I feel rather close, also, to the tradition of collagistes (the Dadaists in particular), no matter it concerns plastic artists or about performance artists. I like the assembly and the place of friction between an picture A and an picture B to create an picture C. On the question of the formalism: yes, I like the formal but I remain always watchful not to produce disembodied forms. I say to myself that if we do not go to the feeling, we haven’t that much impact. And this has nothing to do with the sentimentalism.

You were Alain Buffard’s assistant, we saw you collaborating with choreographers as Rachid Ouramdane and playing as actress at Gwénaël Morin. Do you still collaborate with other artists?

I try to collaborate with, at least, one other project per year. I need to go out of what I make, to be confronted with another esthetics, another look. With Alain Buffard, for example, we were not committed in the same kind of work, but the discussions that came up with him was extremely nourishing. It’s important to move off center.