Letter from Atlanta · Éric Vigner · Anglais · OTHELLO

Letter from Atlanta · Éric Vigner · Anglais · OTHELLO
Note d'intention en anglais
Note d’intention & entretien
Éric Vigner
Langue: Anglais
Tous droits réservés

There is no love, there is no love.

Atlanta, april 2008

I am writing from Atlanta in the spring of 2008, where I am directing IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS, the newly translated play by BERNARD-MARIE KOLTÈS, with two American actors, one black and one white. Atlanta as it is epitomized by CNN and Coca Cola, in the very heart of the Old South of blacks and memories of slavery, where the cotton fields are still murmuring today, forty years after the assassination of MARTIN LUTHER KING.

Before I left, my friend the dramatist RÉMI DE VOS and I had completed the adaptation of OTHELLO. Six months of unrelenting work, from English into French, trying to stick as closely as possible to the language of SHAKESPEARE and to write a version that would fit the scene and accommodate the actors.

Turning from KOLTÈS to SHAKESPEARE, caught in the wickerwork of languages, I read OTHELLO in the light of LA SOLITUDE :

Two men who meet don’t have any other choice but to fight, with the violence of the enemy or the gentleness of fraternity (BMK).

More than ever before I became aware of how much the two plays have in common, how, no matter in what way you stage them, the outcome will merely be a variation on an invisible construct, a story produced by coincidences, choice and links picked up here and there. Over the centuries, the texts speak to each other as in a dialogue. Othello’s famous lines, this sorrow's heavenly :

It strikes where it doth love 

are echoed, I feel, by the last words of LA SOLITUDE :

There is no love, there is no love. (BMK)

Like LA SOLITUDE, OTHELLO is a story of human beings, with Iago and Othello forming the principal couple, and it is between these two that the battle is fought: OTHELLO is a piece about war - the war between Venice and the Turks, a war of conquest fought over the Mediterranean, a war of religion between East and West, a war that is waged against oneself and against the other, in which the other becomes a foreigner whom it behooves to annihilate, which goes beyond Iago’s personal and subconscious scheme which starts with his cry of pain about the injustice he has suffered when Othello fails to make him his lieutenant. It is a play about contamination and doubt. Certainty, the good order of things, logic - the values which form the basis on which society can work smoothly – all crumble under the blows of the undercover war, an intimate and dirty one, waged by a solitary man who has been hurt and wants to destroy the world which has inflicted this pain on him.

Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

OTHELLO is a play of darkness in which the issue of love, desire and death wheels around in a hypnotic atmosphere, just as it does in KOLTÈS’ work. We witness a revolution - like the apparent revolution of the sun around the earth - from light into darkness. Here the light is that of the Last Judgement, a black light, and Iago is the herald of Apocalypse. No pardon is to be granted, no survival.

Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

Iago is an angel of darkness, shapeless and weightless except for the shape and weight others project on him; an actor, «white space» that will accommodate any projection, and the play lays bare Othello’s conscience and, on the rebound, also our own. For a short moment Iago’s relentless plan sheds light on the darkness and blindness that reside in Othello’s heart. For what is it that Othello, in his gloom, fails to see in himself, and that
causes him to kill what he loves and, in so doing, bring Iago’s scheme to fruition? Othello is hit in the very place that harbours his deepest truth. The beast to be killed is his otherness, and the otherness in himself, which is tolerated in a sort of relative peace, turns into the enemy to be eradicated once the poison of doubt takes hold of him - like the desire that hounds the Client in LA SOLITUDE :

Because of the weight of this glance upon me, the virginity in me feels suddenly raped, innocence turned to guilt, and the straight line which was supposed to carry me from one point of light to another point of light, because of you has become crooked and labyrinth obscure in the obscure territory where I got lost. (BMK)

There is no hope in this sombre play, no way out. The mercenary from afar, the Berber stallion used by the Republic to serve their political ends and tolerated even to the extent of acquiescence in his nocturnal rape of the virgin Desdemona, is ultimately thrown back into the chaos foreshadowed by the mysterious faint in which he falls, ravished by the poison cunningly distilled by Iago. Othello remains a stranger, the odd man out, and there is nothing, nothing at all, that could mitigate, could render more acceptable, the inexorable working of death in this play. What you see before you is a desert, nothing else.