Ariane Mnouchkine

St Edward’s is currently hosting legendary theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine. Along with five members of her company, Theatre du Soleil, she is staging her unique “travelling school” — the Ecole Nomade — in the North Wall. “Ariane Mnouchkine is one of the giants of theatre — she is the only female director to have ever won the international Ibsen award, and has received honours from many countries for her achievements. Her creative output over the last fifty years has been extraordinary and enormously influential. The fact that she is sharing her working method with students of theatre, including a number pupils studying drama at St Edwards, here in Oxford at The North Wall is a marvellous thing.” said Lucy Maycock, the arts centre’s artistic director. The company has taken the Ecole Nomade all over the world, from Kabul to Chile, then Sweden and now Oxford, where eighty people from across the country will be participating following national auditions. The fortnight is based on the Theatre du Soleil’s own working method of workshopping with hundreds of actors before they begin the creation of a new piece of work. In the company’s own words: “The sessions of the Ecole Nomade are not simply be drama classes; they constitute moments of practical reflection, in which we seek to set out, explain, and clarify our methods, and to share our collective way of working. And the point of all this? Because this is how we, at the Theatre du Soleil, explore, try, fail, and begin again. In short, this is how we work.” Based in France, Theatre du Soleil rarely performs in the UK, which makes this visit to Oxford extremely special. The company creates popular yet radical, high-quality theatre that invents new ways to combine Asian and Western styles. One of the last great collective companies in Europe, they have for more than 50 years continued to question theatre’s capacity to represent its own times. Lucy first saw the work of Theatre du Soleil in 1998 at their artistic home, La Cartoucherie, on the outskirts of Paris. “The humanity, vision and intelligence of the work had a huge impact on me, and the fact that Mnouchkine herself was there tearing tickets at the door taught me that great theatre has to be collaborative and democratic. Watching Ariane work over the last few days, we’ve seen that her generosity of spirit informs all her work. More importantly, she reminds us that without discipline, creative vision cannot flourish — which is perhaps one of the greatest lessons from this very special two weeks.” Amy Walters, Theatre Manager, The North Wall

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