Theatre work

Theatre work

The décor mostly exists, in my opinion, in order to create an atmosphere. It has to form, as it were, the perfect link for the action that is about to unfold in it and to prepare the audience for the spirit of what will take place on the stage. It is not possible to create through accuracy what is commonly called “the theatrical illusion”. This should not be the illusion of reality, but an illusion of dream, if I daresay, and of a convincing dream. People too often forget that theatre is not reality. Theatre has its own reality. A single detail must be sufficient to set the whole drama both in time and space.

Théodore Strawinsky

(interviewed by Celia Bertin, typed text, archives of the foundation, 1945)

In all, in the period from 1932 to 1966, Théodore Strawinsky created 14 stage and costume designs, mainly for his father’s music pieces but also for different theatre productions in Geneva, where he resided from 1942 onwards. These activities were very closely connected with his work as a painter and a critic. In an article about “L’illusion théâtrale sous l’angle de la poésie optique” he stated “[….] for the stage designer, the illusion that is to be created is not by any means dependant on an optical illusion – which is specifically the aim of trompe l’oeil (literally, ‘deceive the eye’). It would be more appropriate here to talk about trompe-l’esprit (deceive the mind), to borrow Jean Cocteau’s expression.” (Journal de Genève, 1966). Strawinsky did not follow the trend of certain avant-garde stage designers who advocated abstraction. On the contrary, he drew his inspiration from Picasso and the Ballets Russes troupe, transferring onto the stage an elaborate graphic universe, rather like his illustrations for Noces et autres histoires, based on Russian folk songs, published in 1943.

Philippe Kaenel

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