Angelin Preljocaj has big successes with his ballet troupe, like a 2012 work for the Biennale de la Danse de Lyon about a poor young man beaten to death for drinking a can of beer in a store (based on a text by Laurent Mauvignier, Ce que j’appelle oubli), and big failures. Raphaël de Gubernatis has a report on his new ballet for the Avignon Festival (Avignon : "Retour à Berratham", Angelin Preljocaj donne (presque) le meilleur, July 23) for Le Nouvel Observateur (my translation):
It was surely in the hope of recapturing what must be called the miracle of that Lyon performance that the Avignon Festival returned to this surprising relationship between Mauvignier and Preljocaj. And from that miracle came a good part of the interest aroused by this new work, Retour à Berratham. This time, however, the choreographer did not rely on an already published text, but on one requested by him from the author, so that he could imagine a dramatic narrative for this work that lasts a little less than two hours, whose text is spoken on the stage by three actors while it is illustrated by eleven dancers.Preljocaj's work has come under review here live only once, on their visit to the Kennedy Center in 2012. It is one of the pieces de Gubernatis singles out as inferior. Programmers tend not to offer the most interesting works, he says, in favor of the works that are most facile. It also shows that "audiences no longer know how to discern what has value and what does not, and that they also are participating in the artistic decline happening to dance in France.
"It's dismaying!" cried out an overwhelmed woman in the audience at the premiere, at the very moment where the performance came to a close, as the Cour d'honneur in the Palais des Papes was briefly plunged in silence and darkness, and before the audience broken into a mixture of boos and applause. [...]
Spoken rather than acted by the actors, and sometimes in a way hard to understand, Mauvignier's text, infinitely too long, heavy on pathos, even weepy, does not have the edge and anger of Ce que j’appelle oubli. One ends up turning away from it, no longer hearing anything but the intonation of the reciters' voices without truly listening to them. For his part, Preljocaj has not kept the same distance with Retour à Berratham that he had so remarkably imposed on himself with the text for Ce que j’appelle oubli, and the choreography ends up sometimes literally illustrating the narration, in a way that is redundant and extremely uninteresting. Nevertheless, for the first half-hour of the work, the choreography and the staging of Angelin Preljocaj are irreproachable, but it goes bad starting with the portrayal of the heroine's constrained marriage.